By Joe Naiman
Ramona High School’s varsity boys soccer team won its first tournament in more than a decade Dec. 24 when the Bulldogs were victorious in the championship match of the Grossmont Tournament.
Ramona’s 3-2 victory over Olympian in the finals at Santana High School preceded a Dec. 22 pool play win over Montgomery and a 3-1 victory over Steele Canyon in the semifinals at Helix High School.
“I was just really proud of the boys. That’s a lot of games in a short amount of time,” said head coach Michael Jordan.
The tournament began Dec. 15 with two pool play matches for each team. Ramona tied Steele Canyon and defeated Monte Vista that day while Montgomery outscored both the Cougars and the Monarchs. Ramona and Montgomery played on the Monte Vista field to conclude pool play a week later.
“Basically whoever won that game was going to advance out of pool play,” Jordan said. “We went into the game thinking that whoever won the game is going to advance out, and Montgomery is a really good team.”
What Ramona didn’t learn until after the game was that Montgomery had used an ineligible player and had to forfeit its two Dec. 15 victories.
“I’m glad we didn’t know that going in. I’m pleased we had the mentality that we had to win to advance,” Jordan said.
Jordan wasn’t present for the two Dec. 22 games. His nine-day-old nephew, Maverick Jordan, passed away Dec. 20, and Jordan spent the weekend with family. Bill Pittsford and David Parsons coached the Bulldogs for the final pool play game and the semifinal match.
Ramona’s players wrote Maverick’s name on their shin guards and had an electronic photo sent to Jordan.
“It meant a lot to me that the boys were able to honor him in that way,” Jordan said. “It was really special that my boys were able to honor my nephew and think about me.”
Ramona’s 1-0 victory was achieved in part on a goal early in the game, scored by Abraham Cabrera and assisted by Andy Garcia. Ramona goalkeeper Jesse Bonilla made four saves during the game while obtaining assistance from defenders Ali Aparicio, David Soto, and Jose Valencia.
In addition to the three pool winners, a wild card also advanced into the semifinals. Montgomery would have been that wild card had the Aztecs not had to forfeit their first two games. Steele Canyon became the wild card.
“We were all stuck in the same pool,” Jordan said.
In the 2-2 pool play tie against Steele Canyon, the Cougars had 1-0 and 2-1 leads. In the semifinal match, goals by Garcia and Alex Medina gave the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead. After a second-half Steele Canyon goal narrowed the deficit, Morgan Schmidt’s pass to Alejandro Rodriguez provided Ramona with the final goal in the 3-1 game.
This is Pittsford’s 30th year as a soccer coach.
“He said it’s some of the best soccer he’s ever seen in his career,” said Jordan.
In 2010, Ramona reached the finals of the Grossmont Tournament before a 1-0 loss to Helix. In the 2012 tournament, the Bulldogs faced Olympian in the championship match.
“Their team played a lot like us, played possession-style soccer,” Jordan said.
Schmidt took away a loose ball and then beat two defenders before scoring the game’s first goal.
“Just played a beautiful ball past the goalkeeper,” Jordan said.
Ramona took a 2-0 lead when Medina collected a loose ball before shooting it into the net.
The Eagles scored the first half’s final goal, but Garcia gave the Bulldogs a 3-1 lead with a successful second-half shot. Olympian scored the game’s final goal with about three minutes left.
“We were able to hold on,” Jordan said.
The tournament results gave Ramona not only the championship but also an 11-1-1 record to close calendar year 2012.
“We’re off to our best start in probably at least 25 years,” Jordan said. “I have a good team, but all in all I just have a great group of boys.”
The first game of 2013 will not count in the standings, as the varsity-alumni doubleheader will be played Jan. 5. The Saturday event will start with a noon soccer clinic for players ages 4-14. The varsity-alumni boys game will begin at 5 p.m. and the girls game will start at 7 p.m. Proceeds from the games will augment a memorial fund for 4-year-old Gabby Hallmann whose father, Gabe Hallmann, passed away recently.
The Bulldogs play at San Dieguito Academy on Jan. 9.