Stretch run in a magical season

November 2003  

August 2003


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Could "great" not be good enough?

That’s a question that may cross coach E.B. Madha’s mind as his Eagles enter the home stretch of their Western State Conference season.

The Mission College men’s soccer team is near perfect, 9-1-3 in conference play, 12-1-3 overall. Entering the weekend, it was ranked fifth in the nation. But as we went to press, the Eagles trailed tenacious conference rival Moorpark College by a point under the ranking system that allots three points for each victory and one for a tie. This, even though Mission College has twice defeated Moorpark, including a 4-0 thrashing of the Raiders last month.

"The ties have hurt us, definitely," said Madha. "I see a couple of games there that we should have won, not tied."

A 1-0 loss to Glendale College last week spoiled the Eagles’ undefeated record.

Only the conference champion is guaranteed a spot in the playoffs. Although eight at-large berths are awarded to the best of the runners-up, Madha and crew do not want to leave matters to chance. They’d like to finish the season in a flourish, win the conference championship, and assure themselves a playoff spot.

Three games remain, against Santa Barbara and Oxnard at home, and Taft on the road.

Coach E.B. Madha

"I expected us to do well this year, but not this well," said Madha, who had only six players return from last year’s 11-7-5 team, along with 16 new players. "The team isn’t surprised, though. They feel they’ve worked hard and deserve to be where they are."

This year’s team is led by forward Ivan Becerra, whose 14 goals and eight assists were tops in the conference. Emerson Maraquinn and Andy Baena are also stand-out players, said Madha.

While the coach is clearly proud of what his high-flying Eagles have done on the field, he’s equally pleased about the educational opportunities that have opened for his student-athletes.

"One of our key players from last year, Miller Rodriguez, is on a full ride at Cal State, Los Angeles," said Madha. "And Becerra and Baena are committed to play at UC Santa Barbara next year. In fact, all six of my returning players this year will be transferring to four-year schools."

The Eagles play their home games at Birmingham High School. The Santa Barbara match is on November 4 at 3 p.m. The Oxnard game is on November 10 at 1 p.m.

– BY EDUARDO PARDO  /  Photos: Lydia Chung