The target on the back of the Taft College men’s soccer team just got bigger as the Cougars head into today’s crucial Central Valley Conference game at Fresno City College.
Tuesday’s 2-0 non-conference win over Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga vaulted the Cougars into the top spot in the state’s power rankings.
“Our standards keep getting higher,” said head coach Angelo Cutrona, whose team remained unbeaten at 8-0-2. “It will be interesting to see how we deal with it. Going undefeated is a tough task. Any team can knock you off.”
Fresno would like to be that team.
The Rams have worn the conference crown the last four seasons by finding ways to beat Taft.
“They hit some rough going early in the season but are playing with a lot of confidence now,” Cutrona said of the Rams (6-3-1).
Today’s game marks a transition for the Cougars, who have been mostly playing southern California teams. Nine of TC’s opponents are southlanders. The lone exception was last week’s conference opening win at West Hills-Lemoore.
“We’ve been playing southern California teams, and we’ve done a good job,” Cutrona said. “Now the question is: what are we going to do against the north?”
With the exception of a non-conference game with San Bernardino Valley, TC’s 10 remaining games are against northern schools.
In the win at Chaffey, sophomore forward Roberto Mariscal scored both goals, and both, in Cutrona’s words, “were incredible goals.”
The first came in the 20th minute off a pass from Eddie Lopez.
“He made great athletic plays and showed great technique and skill,” the coach said.
He gave a lot of credit to his defense.
“Chaffey uses three forwards up top, which puts a lot of pressure on the defense,” Cutrona said. “We were ready. I think we caught them off-guard by how prepared we were for that.”
Sophomore keeper Roberto Gonzales was up to the challenge, too.
“He had five saves,” Cutrona said. “He had to defend two or three long shots that they hit very well, but Beto was on top of it. He didn’t give up any rebounds. Roberto dealt with it very well.”
The victory gives Cutrona family bragging rights for the next year. His brother-in-law coaches the Chaffey men’s team and his sister the women’s team.
The Cougars expect a physical game from Fresno.
“They always have bigger, beefier guys,” Cutrona said. “Fresno never lacks in size and strength. You always have to deal with their physicality.”
The Rams have scored 18 goals in their last five games.
The Cougars are ranked 11th in the nation in this week’s National Soccer Coaches Association poll.
California Top 10:
1. Taft (8-0-2) 2. Cerritos (6-2-2) 3. San Francisco (8-0-1) 4. Santa Ana (4-1-1) 5. Modesto (7-2-2) 6. Golden West (6-1-2) 7. Lassen (5-1-3) 8. Mt. San Antonio (8-1-0) 9. L.A. Harbor (6-2-2 10. Feather River (7-3-1)