By Jaime Cárdenas
SWC Sports Information Director
CHULA VISTA In soccer, most nerve-racking moments come on a penalty kick or the final minutes of the game, but rarely are they experienced after a phone call. Yet that was the case for the Southwestern College men’s soccer team.
Twenty minutes after erasing a two-goal deficit to beat Imperial Valley College 6-5 and clinch a share of the Pacific Coast Conference championship, the Jaguars were waiting on a reporter who had been receiving updates through his cell phone to get the final score of the Palomar College game.
If Palomar defeated Cuyamaca, then both Palomar and Southwestern would share the title. If Palomar tied or lost, Southwestern would win it outright.
When the reporter’s phone rang, the entire team huddled around him. After hanging up the phone, the reporter told the team that the game had ended in a 2-2 draw then chaos broke.
Players were screaming and hugging one another. Coaches were being thanked for their hard work. Chants of ole, ole, ole began.
Muchachos, somos los campeones Fellas, we are the champions, said one of them.
Despite finishing unbeaten in conference play, the Comets (5-0-5, 12-1-5) finished two points behind the Jaguars’ (7-2-1, 11-4-3) 22 points in the final standings.
At the beginning of year, head coach Robert Flores knew the 2003 Jaguars were a special team.
“Individually and technically, they are a great bunch of players,” he said. But he added that many players on the team were treating playing for the Jaguars as a “weekend club thing.”
He said some players were immature and inexperienced, two traits that reared its ugly head in the first half of Tuesday’s game.
“We hadn’t allowed two goals the entire season, but we allowed five goals against the worst team in the state,” Flores said. IVC, who has only one win in the year, scored four goals in the first half.
Players were bickering amongst each other. They were playing wild and reckless receiving three out of their five yellow cards in the first half and the nerves and pressure of playing for the conference championship had affected many of them.
“We were nervous at the beginning of the match,” Miguel Custodio said, who scored three of the teams goals, including what turned out to be the game winner and the first two.
At halftime, “the coaches talked to us and told us to relax,” Antonio Romero said. “They told us to give it our all and to leave it on the field.”
And relax they did. They scored four unanswered goals. Starting with the first of two Adrian Hernandez goals, followed Romero’s header, which tied at four, and culminating with Custodio’s jaw dropping dribbling skills that gave the Jaguars a 6-4 lead.
“At the beginning of the season, we were not a team,” Custodio said in Spanish. “But we became friends and grew into a team. We could have given up, but when you have a group of friends, like we do here, everything seems to turn out okay.”
Custodio, a freshman, followed his brother, Jaguars midfielder Jimmy Ruiz, to SWC from Guadalajara, Mexico, six months ago. Ruiz, the eldest of the two, came to Chula Vista a year ago. Custodio, unlike his older brother who has no problem with the English language, is learning how to write and speak in English at Southwestern.
Chris Wertenbroek scored IVC’s fifth goal in the last minute of the match.
The 2003 PCC champion Jaguars, with the win, have earned a number one seed in the Southern California Regional Playoffs. They will host a team yet to be named next Tuesday at 2 p.m.