By Joe Naiman
After being relegated to the consolation bracket of the Dec. 27-29 Southern California Classic tournament, Ramona High School’s boys soccer team won the consolation championship.
“Kind of good and bad news, I guess,” said Coach Michael Jordan.
The Bulldogs preceded the tournament with a 1-0 home loss Dec. 21 against El Camino. The Wildcats were outshot by a 10-5 margin but scored on a direct kick.
Ramona tournament play began with two Dec. 27 games — a 3-0 loss to Carlsbad and a 1-1 tie with Mission Hills.
Although Oceanside High School was the tournament organizer of what was once called the Nautical Cup, the games were played at Carlsbad High School. The loss to Carlsbad was thus on the Lancers’ home field while the draw against Mission Hills was at a neutral site.
The Mission Hills match, however, was the Grizzlies’ first of the day and the Bulldogs’ second.
“That’s always tough,” Jordan said.
Carlsbad has synthetic turf, which on a warm afternoon such as Dec. 27 can heat to beyond the air temperature.
“On the artificial turf it’s always a little bit warmer,” Jordan said.
Jordan started the season with a 22-player varsity roster, but injuries as well as players who missed the tournament due to the winter break left him with 14 players by the end of the tournament, including some called up from the junior varsity squad.
The injuries included team captain Carlos Bustos, who pulled a hamstring in the second Dec. 27 game and missed the rest of the tournament.
“Carlos is a vocal player,” Jordan said. “It’s tough not to have him on the field for his play and what else he offers, too.”
Bustos’ injury allowed the Maruna brothers to play on the same defensive line for the first time. Freshman Aiden Maruna came from the junior varsity and joined senior Connor Maruna as an outside defender.
Jose Valencia, who is normally an outside defender since Bustos is the Bulldogs’ center defender, took over the center defender position.
Mission Hills scored its goal in the first half, while Ramona had only one shot. “I told the guys that’s not going to get it done,” Jordan said of his halftime speech.
The Bulldogs took five shots in the second half, including Sebastian Bueno’s goal, which included an assist from Adam Dolan.
“The second half was a complete game of soccer with our possession style and playing much better defense,” he said. “It was absolutely a total team effort.”
That included the junior varsity players who showed their ability to play on the varsity level if needed.
“It says something about the JV guys that they’re there,” Jordan said.
Because Mission Hills lost to Carlsbad by a closer margin, the Grizzlies earned second-place pool status and Ramona was the third-place team in the three-school pool. The four third-place teams played consolation semifinal matches Dec. 28.
Ramona’s semifinal match was a 2-1 win over West Hills.
“Just dominated them up and down the field,” Jordan said. “Had many, many opportunities.”
The Bulldogs scored first when Bueno played a corner kick to Andy Garcia, who placed the ball into the net. West Hills tied the game when Ramona was unable to clear a corner kick, and the halftime score was 1-1. In the second half Dolan passed to Bueno, who scored the winning goal.
That put Ramona into the Dec. 29 consolation finals against La Jolla Country Day. The 2-0 win saw Ramona score once in each half. Jesse Bonilla recorded the shutout.
“He played great,” Jordan said of Bonilla.
Valencia, Connor Maruna and Ali Aparicio were the starting defenders who also contributed to the shutout. “Our defensive line did great,” Jordan said.
The first-half goal was scored by Carlos Blanco in conjunction with Dolan’s assist. Early in the second half, Dolan dribbled between defenders before placing a left-footed shot into the net.
In addition to giving Ramona the consolation championship, the win over La Jolla Country Day gave Ramona a 6-4-2 record for the Calendar Year 2011 portion of the season. The Bulldogs’ final pre-league game of the season will take place Friday afternoon, Jan. 6, at Kearny High School.