BY ESTEBAN RAMIREZ Special to The Californian
As it heads into the postseason, the Taft College men’s soccer team is riding a wave of success unprecedented in the history of the program. The women’s team is not too far behind.
“It’s been fantastic coaching these guys because they’re a focused group,” coach Angelo Cutrona said of his men’s team, which is 15-0-5 and ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 3 nationally. “There has been very little to none as far as disciplinary issues. They allow me to just worry about the sport because there are no outside distractions. It’s like a dream to get to coach them.”
On Nov. 9, the Cougars beat College of the Sequoias 2-0 to wrap up their first unbeaten regular season.
Taft also wrapped up its third Central Valley Conference championship in six years.
Top-seeded in the Northern California playoffs, the Cougars have a first-round bye and will play the winner of No. 8 seed Feather River and No. 9 Lassen on Tuesday.
“We’re a very sound defensive team because we haven’t allowed many goals,” Cutrona said. “Our defense is outstanding. It has been great to see what we have been able to do on that side.”
Taft’s defense has allowed only 13 goals in 20 games. The defense is led by top-10 ranked goalkeeper Robert Gonzalez from Taft High. Gonzalez has had 75 saves on the year, nine shutouts and holds a .6901 goals-against average.
Cutrona added that he thinks the stretch in which the team had nine-straight shutouts really highlighted their season.
Leading the offense is forward Ramiro Barraza from Bakersfield High, who has 16 goals and six assists. Forward Roberto Mariscal has nine goals and a team-leading seven assists.
“What makes this team so good is that the success doesn’t go to their heads. They’re a very level-headed group,” Cutrona said. “This year has been different from past years because we’ve had successes before and usually we like to take the underdog role, but it’s impossible to take that role this year.”
Guided by coach Myisha Cutrona, Taft’s women’s team (9-8-3) earned its first playoff berth and was seeded No. 14. The Cougars are ranked No. 14 in the Northern region and No. 17 in the state.
Striker Joanna Espinoza, from Highland High, has led the team with a school-record 16 goals and has six assists. Captain Brittany Hernandez has three goals and a team-leading seven assists.
“We’ve got great team camaraderie,” Myisha Cutrona said. “I’m excited about this group of girls. I really believe our camaraderie will help us go deep in the playoffs. I haven’t seen a player all year that is as good as Joanna.
The Taft women play at No. 3 seed Santa Rosa Junior College at 2 p.m. Saturday.