SI’s varsity boys’ soccer team made school and state history March 10 in Santa Rosa by defeating Montgomery 3–2 in overtime to win the first ever NorCal championship tourney ever offered by the California Interscholastic Federation.
The boys also ended their long season and 6-game post-season ranked first in the state and third in the nation, according to USA Today, the highest ranking for any SI soccer team.
In past years, competition ended at the sectional level, and next year, the CIF will offer the first state championship game. Head Coach Alan Downey already has his gaze set on that future trophy, as he hopes to extend a two-year win streak to three.
Last year, Downey’s team went undefeated on its way to the league and CCS crowns. “I feel a little sorry for those players,” he noted. “They felt a little aggrieved, as they believe they would have won the NorCal title had it been offered last year.”
Downey used the success of last year’s team to help this year’s squad excel. “I told the boys that everyone said 2018 would be a rebuilding year. Of course, I got the response that I wanted. The players said, ’No way, coach. We’re going to win it again.’ That stirred a desire in them, and throughout the season, I felt these guys really wanted to go all the way.”
Last year’s team, he added, “inspired this team. They helped solidify SI as a state powerhouse thanks to their attack-heavy style of play.”
This year’s squad, said Downey “was a completely different entity, more defensively disciplined and organized. They always found a way to win, and the more they won, the more their confidence grew.”
Overall, SI went 19–1–5, with one loss coming against Valley Christian. “The day before, it was one of those strange, hot February days. I wanted to change things up and suggested we have practice on the beach. Then the next day, we outshot Valley Christian 25 to 1, but they scored on their one shot. I don’t think we lost because of that practice, but you can’t help second-guessing yourself. We walked out stunned and in shock. The one advantage is that the loss revitalized us, and we won every game since then. In a roundabout way, that loss gave us the push we needed.”
After winning league and CCS titles, SI beat Marin Academy in overtime thanks to a goal by Nicholas Brown ’18. SI then traveled to take on the number-one ranked Folsom, which was undefeated. “They were the powerhouse,” said Downey. “We watched them warm up, and they seemed to take it pretty casually. I think they underestimated us, and we used that to our advantage.”
Once again, Brown’s actions helped SI. He kicked a ball that was deflected off a defender’s foot, giving SI the only score it needed. “We were so disciplined that day, covering for each other and battling as a team. As soon as that game ended, we knew that we would win the NorCal title and that our name was already on the trophy.”
At Montgomery High School for the NorCal crown, Seamus Lucey ’18 scored early in the first half only to see Montgomery tie the game. With 8:50 to go in the second half, Brown scored again. Less than a minute later, Montgomery evened the score. Then in overtime, Alex Bailey ’18 scored the golden goal to end post-season play.
“It was an amazing victory,” said Downey. “To be the first team ever to win the NorCal title — that’s something that can never be taken away from us.”
Among the players honored by the league were goalkeeper of the year Nathan Kushner ’18 and forward of the year David Woodruff ’18. Both also made the all-league first team along with Bailey. Second team honors went to Brown, and Paul Rich ’19 earned honorable mention honors.
Downey also singled out second-string goalkeeper Armando Malton ’18, who started last year after Kushner was out with an injury. “Armando epitomizes what the team is all about,” said Downey. “When Kushner came back healthy, Armando had to take a back seat. He helped Nate work out every day. I’d tell the team at halftime that those cheering the loudest for them were the guys on the bench, guys like Armando. I was blown away by the togetherness and respect they had for each other.”
Five years ago, when Downey started coaching at SI, he told everyone he had a five-year plan. “I’ve done everything I ever hoped I could do in that time, but I’m not ready to give it up. I’m having too much fun, and I want to put SI on the map in the world of soccer. I want winning to become part of our DNA. After years being the runner up, SI is now the team others are looking to. As far as we have gone, I know we can go even further.”
Boys’ Soccer Stats
Coaches: Alan Downey (V) assisted by Stephen Cordova; Nicholas Harb (JV); John Stiegeler (JV) assisted by Patrick Cody.
Records: 19–1–5 (V).
Highlights: For the second year in a row, the team won league and CCS titles. SI also won the NorCal title in the first year that contest was offered. SI finished ranked first in the state and third in the nation.
Awards: WCAL Goalkeeper of the Year: Nathan Kushner; Forward of the Year: David Woodruff; both were also named to the all–league, first team along with Alex Bailey; second team: Nicholas Brown; HM: Paul Rich ’19.
Graduating Seniors: Christopher Miglio, David Woodruff, Erik Connell, Seamus Lucey, Orlando Caballero, Nicholas Brown, Gabriel Damir, Henri Vatinel, Jose Davila, Alexander Bailey, Nathan Kushner, Armando Malton.
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