De Anza men’s soccer overcame injury and illness to reach the CCCAA playoffs, but was unable to advance past the first round.
“It was a very tough season for the team, with many players missing critical games due to injury and sickness this year,” head coach Rusty Johnson said. “During those critical games, the team took losses or ties that probably should have been wins, which contributed to a lower than usual seeding in the playoffs.”
The Dons faced other challenges as well.
“The age difference. We had a lot of freshman, half the team. There were guys who had registered last year but playing wise this was their first year [on the soccer team],” said captain Sahr Mattia, 20. “It was something they had to adapt to [playing at the collegiate level], so that really played a factor.”
Despite this, the Dons continued to work and fight hard. In fact, the team’s number of wins in conference games was the same as their number of ties.
The team only lost four out of their 20 games played.
Mattia noted that once the players adjusted to the standards and demands of collegiate level soccer and developed camaraderie, the Dons started to shift from tying games to winning them. It just took time.
Arturo Meza, Mattia’s fellow captain, felt proud of his teammates who never gave up.
“For my team, what I am most proud of is just having the fighter’s mentality,” Mattia said.
Meza in particular referred to the Dons’ first-round CCCAA playoff game against City College of San Francisco.
Down 3-0, the Dons recovered to score two goals, reducing the deficit to 3-2. Though time was running out, the Dons continued to work hard with just minutes to go in an attempt to score a third goal. Their attempts were unsuccessful, however, as they lost, 3-2, marking an end to their season.
Throughout the challenging season, both Mattia and Meza’s commitment to fostering sportsmanship and developing team bonds was a priority for them.
The team captains also enjoyed their roles.
“I loved it,” Mattia said. “Motivating the guys. A lot of them inspired me, and I hope I inspired them.”
Meza shared similar sentiments, adding that if he were given another opportunity to serve as team captain, he would accept it without hesitation.
With strong leaders, and despite a majority of new players, the Dons performed well this season, even though they fell short in comparison to their last several high-achieving seasons.
Despite the disappointment, Johnson remains optimistic about next season.
“We have a young team with 20 freshmen and seven sophomores, so we will look to develop the youth on our team this next year to make a strong push for a state championship next season.”