David conquers Goliath in showdown at Sherbeck Field

Hornets’ historic men’s soccer season comes to a brutal end at the hands of the Vaqueros in the first round of the CCCAA State playoffs.
Fullerton sophomore forward Misael Gonzalez looks to push the ball on the attack, battling Santa Barabra sophomore defender Pedro Guillen for positioning.
Fullerton sophomore forward Misael Gonzalez looks to push the ball on the attack, battling Santa Barabra sophomore defender Pedro Guillen for positioning.
Jose Vazquez

Where nearly everything was going right, the Hornets’ season came to an abrupt end when their final kick landed short of the goal. The No. 15 seed Santa Barbara City College came into Sherbeck Field Saturday night and came away with an upset win by way of penalty kicks 6-5 in the first round of the CCCAA State playoffs over the No. 2 seed Fullerton College.

Vaqueros freshman defender Uli Sevilla came into Saturday’s matchup only scoring one goal in his young career. Little did he know, the penalty kick he buried to put the Vaqueros up one would become the biggest goal of his career.

With the Hornets down to their last shot, the team’s second leading scorer, freshman Hayden Kenny, stepped up to the circle with all the pressure in the world. The penalty kick is arguably one of the most intense game actions there is in all of sports. Mano y mano, goalkeeper versus striker, you versus him. That pressure ultimately overcame the freshman, as his shot was stopped just short of the goal line, deciding the Hornets’ fate. The blocked PK would be a book end for what was once a very dominant 2023 season.

As Santa Barbara rushed the field with pure joy, several players of the Fullerton squad dropped immediately in distraught. You could hear a pin drop on Fullerton’s side.

Hornets’ defenders sophomore Brian Aragon and freshman Nathan Giles collapse on the ball to stop any chance of the Vaqueros creating any offense on Nov. 18, 2023. (Jose Vasquez)

“We were just given instructions to go out and play our game like the team we know how to be, and it just did not work out for us in the end,” said sophomore midfielder Brian Aragon. “Ultimately, one team wanted it more, but we tried leaving everything on the field. The cards just did not fall in our favor.”

The big message that seemed to be vocalized postgame was continuing to grow and learn from a kind of moment like this.

“We just have to continue to grow. We are still a developing program. We have a very young team, and we will be returning a lot of freshmen. We just have to learn from this,” said Fullerton head coach Greg Aviles.

The first half saw a scoreless tie with several key opportunities missed for the Hornets, especially from the boot of sophomore striker and OEC MVP Misael Gonzalez. The slow start was very unfamiliar for the Hornets.

This is a Hornets team that came on to the pitch averaging almost three goals a game, against a team that had barely eclipsed the one goal a game mark.

Fullerton had to come out of the halftime locker room with great energy to show why they deserved to be the No. 2 seed. The Hornets looked to lean on their MVP, and Gonzalez answered the call, as he scored just two minutes into the second half at the 47-minute mark, putting Fullerton up 1-0.

Hornets’ sophomore and OEC MVP Misael Gonzalez chips the ball right over freshman goalie Marco Rotundo for his second goal of the match on Nov. 18, 2023. (Jose Vasquez)

Santa Barbara seemed unfazed, as freshman midfielder Haru Ito showed flashes of the great Lionel Messi with a left-footed boot from far out, escaping the reach of Hornets sophomore goalie Jonathan Ortiz, tying the match up at 1-1 less than a minute later.

Gonzalez again stepped up to the challenge, stamping his imprint on this match and electrifying the crowd, as he scored his second goal of the match three minutes later at the 52-minute mark, putting the Hornets up 2-1.

The Vaqueros (10-6-5, 5-4-1) were resilient in their pursuit of stealing a win as they were moving down the field. Ten minutes later, they were able to draw a foul in the box, which rewarded them a penalty kick, though it was a controversial call according to many of the Hornet faithful.

As the penalty kick ensued, it was originally blocked by Ortiz, but the ball ricocheted right back to freshman midfielder Sebastian Rodriguez, who punched it into the back of the net, tying up the game once again at 2-2.

That goal went on to be the last goal scored in regular time as well as in extra time, where both teams went scoreless for the next 60+ minutes. This created a winner-take-all session of penalty kicks to decide which team would move on to face Cuyamaca in the second round of playoffs.

One of the best scoring teams in the state shut down completely as players of the Hornets seemed to be gassed in the whining minutes of the match. Execution was something the Hornets (18-3-2, 11-1-2) had trouble with throughout the night.

“We had some execution errors, some missed opportunities in the box, we had a couple of miscues getting into the final third, and there were some penalties that weren’t called in the box that did not go our way,” said Aviles.

Fullerton freshman forward Pedro Delgado looks to maintain possession against Santa Barbara sophomore defender Simon Carricaburu. (Jose Vazquez)

The Vaqueros came into the match winning just two out of their last six matches, but that did not stop them from coming into Sherbeck Field and pulling off one of the biggest wins in their program’s history.

“I can’t remember the last time we made it past the first round. And coming into the number two seed’s house, it’s always tough and I told the guys on the bus it’s David versus Goliath, let’s get after it,” said Vaqueros’ head coach Alex Zermeno. “I think the stars just aligned in our favor tonight.”

Through teary eyes and a broken heart, the returning Hornets look to learn from this experience in preparation for their next season.

“I think just keeping a level head about this, everything happens for a reason,” said Aragon. “Just looking forward to the future opportunities that come with this loss, and that it puts the younger guys in a better position to come back next year and go all the way.”

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About the Contributors
Quinn Cisneros, Sports Editor
Quinn Cisneros is a second semester Sports Desk Editor for The Hornet Newspaper.  He is a JACC award winning journalist for his involvement in a Title IX investigation. His interest in journalism came from his passion of sports. He enjoys watching, playing, and writing about sports. Quinn's end goal in journalism is to become a sports analyst. When not writing he enjoys spending time with his dog.
Jose Vazquez, Staff Photographer
Jose Vazquez is a returning staff photographer for The Hornet. Jose wants to tell people's stories and cover points of interest in our culture's conflicts, politics, history, and the obscure. His focus currently is on the emerging music and art scene in Southern California. Jose is currently studying at Fullerton College where he is working towards a bachelor’s degree in photography and journalism. He also volunteers at a nonprofit art house movie theatre in Santa Ana, the historic Frida Theatre. In his free time, he creates videos on his YouTube channel and plays drums in a garage gaze band called Black Star Meadow.

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