In their third meeting this season, the Hornets edge out a 1-0 home victory over Irvine Valley College and advance to the next round of the SoCal Regionals.
From the previous two meetings during conference play between Irvine Valley, Fullerton (17-2-2)(11-1-2) were pushed by the Lasers to a 2-1 victory and 0-0 draw.
Despite the Hornets being a heavy favorite coming into the 1st round match-up as the third seed in the SoCal Regionals, 14th seed Irvine Valley (8-10-3)(5-6-3) proved to be a formidable opponent once again.
Hornets head coach Greg Aviles did not see playing Irvine Valley again as an advantage for his team despite having prior success against the Lasers during the regular season.
“Actually to us, I felt it was a disadvantage because they knew a lot of things that we did and looked like they prepared for us a lot. As they had a good game plan, so we just really had to work through the complications of the things they were doing against us,” FC head coach Aviles stated.
The journey it took the underdog Lasers to qualify for the playoffs prior to playing the Hornets reflected in their intensity to try and upset the OEC Champions at the start of the whistle.
As the game started, the Lasers stood firm in absorbing the Hornets early attack efforts. It was imminent from the start, that if the Hornets were to be successful at goal, they would have to play from the behind.
Throughout the first half Fullerton got most of the opportunities at goal, however, Irvine Valley was relentless with their counterattacks in hopes of capitalizing on any opportunity the Hornets defense would allow.
Hornet captain defenders CJ Wood & Cesar Coronado orchestrated their defensive group accordingly for the Hornets to imprint their style of playing the long balls to the Hornet wingers to penetrate the opponent’s defense.
“Our defensive shape and effort was the backbone to getting behind the ball. Every time we would lose it, you can see the whole team run back to recover the ball and go forward again,” Coronado explained.
However, the Hornet forwards was not in sync with one another on the attacks throughout the first half. As a consequence, there would be multiple offside calls against Fullerton.
The one key moment in the first half that had the home crowd standing out of their seats, was when Hornet sophomore forward Jacob Aldana dribbled past his defender and was one on one with the Lasers goalkeeper. Aldana struck the ball with his off foot straight at the Lasers goalkeeper. Had he shot the ball anywhere else, the Hornets would have scored.
During halftime, Hornet assistant coach Kenny Castellanos urged his players to play more disciplined and to not have their season end in tears on home turf for the first game of the playoffs.
FC head coach Aviles noticed the trend that his team performs better in the second half and feels they need to improve on how they start their matches if they want further success.
“We just got to play better in the first half. We need to be a little more organized as well as impose our will much sooner to make the game more manageable,” head coach Aviles emphasized.
For this reason, the second half continued to be the safe haven from their first half performance as the Hornets were inspired to perform well in front of their home fans against IVC. As a result, Aldana kept the steady persistent for the Hornets to attack in search of the game’s first goal.
To the surprise of many, the Hornets unsung hero in the second half would be Hornet freshman defender Michael Calderon. Calderon would be the lone goal scorer of the game, as he took advantage late in the second half off a rebound from his Hornet teammate forward Bronny Toledo’s shot. Calderon delivered the ball into the empty net and broke the hearts of all the Laser players as the Lasers goalkeeper made an unsuccessful last-ditch save to dive behind him.
“I just followed the ball, as my teammate Bronny finished his run. After that, I followed through with the shot and had no hesitation,” Calderon recalled.
Leading up to the goal, the Hornets were just a better team on both ends of the ball by winning 50/50 balls and earning multiple corner kicks with their resilient will to win.
Soon after the goal, the Hornets were driving down the field easily as the Lasers tried to recklessly respond and push the game into extra time.
Extra time never came, and the Hornets celebrated their 1-0 victory over the Lasers, by honoring their supporters in the stands by collectively applauding them.
The Hornets next opponent for the next round in SoCal Regionals is a rematch against OEC runners-up Golden West at home on Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018.