The Fullerton College men’s soccer team got its revenge in front of the home fans and captured the team’s third ever Orange Empire Conference Championship with a 2-0 victory over Golden West College.
Earlier in the season, Golden West edged out Fullerton 1-0 to give the Hornets their only conference loss of the season. The Hornets never forgot and were able to avenge that loss for the title.
Both teams were separated only by one point for the top spot in the OEC standings before Friday’s matchup.
The Hornets (16-2-2)(11-1-2) needed either a victory or a draw against Golden West to end the Hornet’s 26-year drought from their last OEC championship in 1992.
It was no secret that home field would play an advantage for the Hornets in their final regular season match, as they were undefeated, with only one draw on home turf.
At the beginning of the match, both teams came out with the intensity to try and out will one another using their physical attributes.
Hornet sophomore forward Jacob Aldana proceeded to make his last regular season appearance for the Hornets a one to remember.
With the assist of a corner kick delivered from Hornet freshman midfield captain Steve Perez, Aldana capitalized on his opportunity in the 23rd minute to make a memorable goal to cap off his soccer career playing for Fullerton. Aldana jumped behind a Rustler defender and delivered a header straight down the middle that past Golden West’s goalkeeper.
“My goal was the best play I could offer my teammates. As I won the ball in the air, I was getting tired. But I knew I had to do it for my team and just keep pushing,” Aldana stated.
Aldana’s goal in the first half was a reflection of the Hornets efforts in the first half to dominate and dictate the attack that resulted in numerous corner kicks for the Hornets to take advantage of throughout the entire half.
Fullerton would prove to be the stronger side on both ends of the ball. Every time the Rustlers tried to play a ball down the field, Hornet sophomore captain defender CJ Wood would find a way to intercept the ball using various headers. The Hornets defense triumphed in the first half as the Hornets led 1-0 going into halftime.
During halftime, the Hornets honored their 14 sophomore players for their contributions throughout their athletic career with an exclusive huddle to allow an intimate moment of reflection for their time at Fullerton.
With a crowd of about 300 people on hand, the setting was set for the Hornets to determine their own fate alongside making history in front of family & friends and having an opportunity to leave a lasting legacy by sending off their 13 sophomore players off into the sunset as champions.
When the second half came around, the Rustlers (12-5-3)(10-3-1) caught a second wind and made it a priority to play more aggressive and hold on to ball possession more being down 1-0.
To combat the Rustler’s second-half efforts, the Hornets utilized their key sophomore wing forward Cesar Ortega as the center of the counterattacks to spread Golden West’s defense.
This proved to be key in the Hornets regaining back the momentum to secure their 1-0 lead. From there, the Rustlers had no answers to respond and looked fatigued.
The cheers from the home crowd urged the Hornets to finish off the Rustlers once in for all.
Therefore, when the opportunity presented itself, the Hornets exploited one of many Rustler’s reckless attempts at goal towards the end of the match with a counterattack led by key man Cesar Ortega.
Ortega received a long ball from the back and played it forward by delivering a crisp one-touch pass for Hornet sophomore forward AJ Yazid. Yazid found himself with only one defender to beat. He secured the ball away from the sliding attempt that dropped the Rustler defender to the ground.
Yazid was now one on one with Golden West’s goalkeeper. Yazid collected his dribble to prepare for a game-ending shot. He was successful in delivering the dagger goal during the latter stages of the 80th minute that increased the Hornet’s lead to 2-0 and ensure the chance of winning the OEC Championship.
Yazid’s goal also was responsible in helping build the anticipation and excitement on the sidelines for Hornet players and fans as they all swarmed the field when the final whistle blew.
“It was fantastic and felt good. Even though I cramped up at the end, the goal was worth it,” Yazid said.
Yazid also added, “We put all the work in throughout the whole season. Day in and day out. A couple of days waking up at 6 am to do weights and everything, I knew we were going to win.”
Fullerton head coach Greg Aviles thanked the fans for attending throughout the regular season during the team’s historic run. He urged fans to continue their support for the Hornets upcoming playoff run.
“Thank you for the continual support, and keep watching for these guys. They are a special group,” Fullerton head Coach Greg Aviles explained.
The Hornets now wait for their matchup in the Southern California playoffs.