Sonoma boys bounce Ukiah from NCS soccer, face Monty next
Quarterfinal match Saturday night in Santa Rosa
Senior standout twins Rory (No. 10, middle) and Connor (No. 2) Johnston team-up to make a play during the Dragons’ impressive NCS-opening win over Ukiah Wednesday night at Arnold Field.
What coaches Pedro Merino and Mike Linder wanted from their Sonoma Valley High School varsity soccer boys in Wednesday night’s North Coast Section Division-1 playoffs opener at Arnold Field was an all-out team effort, which would include controlling the action and playing with composure.
Oh, and of course, a postseason win would complete the evening.
Well, the two coaches got what they wanted and the reward was most satisfying.
The seventh-seeded Dragons played with confidence and a competitive desire to succeed, which they thoroughly did in dominating 10th-seeded Ukiah both defensively and offensively from the outset of the match and delivering a 3-0 NCS victory.
“I told them before the match that what we wanted were cool heads and hot feet,” said longtime head coach Merino. “We stressed the fact that they needed to play the way we expected them to – as a well-working team which dictates the tempo, manages the game and always stays composed and for the most part, thats what the players did and the proof is in the results.”
After taking an 1-0 lead midway through the first-half as Iván Chávez scored a goal assisted by fellow senior Connor Johnston, Sonoma stunned the visiting Wildcats – who won an early preseason match between the two teams – with a second goal off the foot of senior Diego Benítez just before the half ended.
“With a 1-0 lead you don’t have room for error, so getting a 2-0 lead is huge because you know one mistake can’t cost you a match, and with that little extra cushion the team can stay aggressive and continue to attack, which we did and it paid off with a third goal,” Merino said.
Tallying the third goal for the Dragons was senior sweeper Riley Clark, who moved up from his defensive position to a perfect spot centered in front of the goal-mouth, where he gathered in a deflected shot and drilled the ball into the net for a satisfying “garbage-goal” just 11 minutes into the second half.
Rounding out Sonoma’s varsity soccer boys’ roster are seniors Nester Acevedo, Yair Alvarez, Javier Figueroa, Francisco Guerrero, Rory Johnston, Alex Ochoa, César Pino, Antonio Robles, Frankie Salazar, Jo-Jo Sánchez, Ezequiél Vázquez and Victor Virgen; juniors Stephan Flynn-García, Fidel García, Eric Gonzalez, Connor Grieggs-Demmin, Griffin Hill, Daniel Montes, Pedro Nápoles and Manuel Young; and sophomores Andy Chávez and Brian Ruiz.
With the win, the Dragons (10-7 overall record) advance to the NCS quarterfinals, where they will face second-seeded Montgomery – which lost twice to Ukiah during the regular season and beat 15th-seeded Fortuna 4-0 on Wednesday – at 7 p.m. tomorrow, Saturday, Nov. 5, in Santa Rosa.