NCS Finals Preview

I can’t believe the season is ending tomorrow. It’s been a great season, too bad it has to end.
Let’s dive right in…

Division I

The matchup: No. 1 De La Salle (17-5-3) v. No. 6 California (16-3-6), 7:30 p.m.

The storyline: The De La Salle soccer team is a machine. Since a not-so-good showing in San Diego in December, this team has gone 12-1-2. As far as North Coast Section dominance the last two years, there is no finer team than the Spartans. They come into this game as the clearcut favorite.
“What can I say about De La Salle?,” California coach Chris Faidley said. “They finish second nationally last year and follow that up with another EBAL title. Brian’s (Voltattorni) got them playing so well, they’ve coasted through the playoffs so far. We’ll have to play a terrific game, limit mistakes and take advantage of opportunities. If everyone loves an underdog, they’ve got one in Cal.”
According to nearly every single person on this blog, the Grizzlies have no chance. That is exactly gives them a chance. Cal is going to be fired up after a very big, emotional come-from-behind win on top of getting no respect. The Grizzlies are loose and ready to play.
“I love these boys,” Faidley said. “I told them today they are good for me. I’m always thinking “What’s next? What do we need to do now?” These guys can find a way to laugh and enjoy life in any situation. They’ve helped me to slow down and enjoy the ride, occasionally.”

Key matchups: The obvious matchup would be to choose Cal’s attacking mid, Guillermo Rivas, against De La Salle’s center mid, in Wesley Moar. Clearly two of the best players in the East Bay. The players I will keep my eye on will be Cal’s Andrew Noble and Andre Rawls, and De La Salle’s Justin Howard and J.T. Tallarman.
Noble will need to spearhead a defense that had a couple of mental lapses against San Ramon Valley. Rawls, a very good keeper, is the reason that Cal was only facing a 3-0 deficit instead of a 5-0, or 6-0 hole on Wednesday.
Noble, Rawls and the rest of the Cal back line will have their hands full against the very talented Howard and Tallarman.

Division II

The matchup: No. 1 Bishop O’Dowd (20-0-5) v. No. 3 Dublin (19-3-3), 2:30 p.m.

The storyline: Only rivaled by De La Salle in NCS dominance, the Bishop O’Dowd Dragons have been the premier Division II team in the East Bay, and have been thoroughly dominant for the last two seasons, going 41-2-9. They are back in the Division II finals and looking to avenge last year’s loss to Acalanes in penalty kicks.
“They are very disciplined,” Dublin coach James Fulwiler said. “They aren’t purely an offensive team or a defensive team. They are balanced, and they play structured soccer. Our styles of play are actually very similar.”
So what’s the key difference between the two teams?
“They are absolutely huge,” Fulwiler said. “I need to get my boys not to be intimidated by their size.”
The Dragons know where the advantage lies as well.
“I think we match up with size,” Bishop O’Dowd coach Peter Belanger said. “I think the game could possibly come down to set pieces. We scored two goals on Acalanes, the first time anyone has scored two on them all year, when everyone said that we wouldn’t.”
There is another difference between the two teams. O’Dowd is used to being on this stage. This is a season of first’s for Dublin, including this first trip to the finals. But the Gaels are ready.
“We celebrated a little after Albany, but on Thursday there was no more time for celebration,” Fulwiler said. “We have to go through our second consecutive undefeated team if we want to win this championship.”

Key matchups: Jamie Somerville v. Charlie Ranahan in the middle would have been a great matchup, but unfortunately Ranahan, probably O’Dowd’s heart and soul, suffered a season-ending knee injury against Acalanes. The Dragons will have to adjust without the motor that makes them go.
“With Charlie out of the middle we’ll simply do the best we can,” Belanger said. “We’ve endured many things this year as a team and I think because of that we are stronger collectively.”
So where can O’Dowd make up for it? Well, it’s his twin brother, Drew Ranahan. The Dragons sweeper will be instrumental in locking down Dublin forwards Cody Hoster and Trevor Weir.
On the other end, with Max Ornstil, Taylor Reitz and Carson Swafford being extremely aggressive, Dublin’s sophomore sweeper, Oliver Castillo, will be relied upon a lot.
“He’s had a phenomenal NCS playoff run,” Fulwiler said. “Against Albany, anytime the runner’s came at him, he just kept shutting them down.”

Matt Smith

  • The Sweeper

    Ebal Fan,

    It was a hard fought final between Cal and DLS. As Matt stated, DLS came out fast and put heavy pressure on Cal. Each team aggressively challenged for the ball time and again, forcing the official to tighten the game, but not unduly change the tone or tempo. There were literally dozens of fouls called but only a few yellows. There was one noted sequence where the ref waived off 3 consecutive fouls as DLS maintained control: “Play on!” was the call.

    The goal by DLS at the end of the first half seemed to be a misplay, a split second pause, but I could not hear what the keeper called.

    Cal ratcheted up the pace in the second half, while DLS played conservatively from a defensive standpoint with the 1-0 lead. The last 10 minutes was just as frantic as the semifinal at SRV, leading to several near miss shots but no goal for Cal. Good luck and bad luck played a roll in the final outcome. Cal was fortunate not giving up 1 or 2 goals early in the match, but fortune was not on their side during the final 10 minutes. DLS had some bad luck early in the match not scoring, but the lone goal was fortunate: was the free kick even touched?

    The outcome was appropriate, but it could have gone the other way. Each team should be proud.

  • ebal fan

    Sweeper, well said I just wanted to hear your take on it. The game was excellent, much more even that I had anticipated. Nobody gave Cal a shot but they played with hearts out there and that was the difference. The referring was overall very good in my eyes. There was a call that a Cal player asked for a hand ball in the box and in my eyes it was a handball but thats the way soccer is.

  • LakeTahoeGuy

    Question? Matt, (or anyone else that was at the game), was there some question as to whether the DLS goal should have been the result of a free kick or a throw in? My sources say the ball went out of bounds, but the Ref awarded a free kick, instead of a throw in….
    Apparently, the ball was already out of bounds when the Ref “decided” it was a free kick, as opposed to a throw in….

  • Matt Smith

    The ball did end up out of bounds, and it was really close to already being out of bounds, but it look to me like the foul happened just in the field of play. I thought it should have been a free kick.

  • LakeTahoeGuy

    Thanks Matt, for the clarification.

  • LakeTahoeGuy

    FYI, All, Soccer season is not over, many of your favorite players will be playing next weekend on the Peninsula, (Palo Alto, Redwood City, etc.) with their “Club Teams”. Go MUSTANG!!!!!

  • bambam

    The season has ended for the high school soccer season. I was going to end my Bam Bam blogger career last night but I thought I would comment on a couple of todays post.

    Rawls and Rogers each had good games last night and for the most part both teams were in the game because of them. Rawls misjudged the flight of Decosta’s free kick and was caught up in traffic or obstructed from getting back on it. I believe that it hit about 2 yds out and bounced to the back of the net. From that point Cal attacked in my opinion as the DLS played passive. CAL played with alot of heart from that point but if that goal doesn’t go in then I’m sure DLS would have kept on the offensive and who knows what would have happened. My opinion is that DLS would have stayed one step ahead of CAL because if you watched them all year then you would know that is how DLS played. They beat Foothill by one goal only in both games that they played each other.

    MVP – There is no MVP award for the game, so that is not worth arguing about. DLS wins NCS with a solid team effort and CAL had a fantastic season too. Moar-Sweeney-Rogers-Howard-Talerman These are the only seniors leaving and they all had a great year and helped the team to go 4-0 in NCS while scoring 10 goals for and 1 against in the process.

    I’ll tell you this, Rivas and Decosta will battle next year in EBAL. Rivas is magic and Decosta is as solid as they come on defense.

  • bambam

    I heard that the goal was on CAL High Sports. I will watch it and maybe I will be able to see a second time what actually happened on the Decosta free kick. Last night it looked like Rawls came up on it and got caught up in traffic getting back but that was live.

    None the less Rawls kept them in the game and CAL wouldn’t have made it to the finals without him.

  • bambam

    Correction or addition

    (Moar-Sweeney-Rogers-Howard-Talerman) These are seniors that are leaving that started every game. We had other senior players that contributed all year that will also be leaving.

    More than anything else, I believe the coaching staff is the reason for the repeat.

    Props to The Dublin Gaels for winning their 1st NCS title

  • The Sweeper

    Ebal Fan #98,

    There was in fact a situation late in the match (last 4 minutes?) in the DLS box where Rivas asked the official for a hand ball call. From my view I could not see the play clearly and no other Cal players made an animated protest, if you know what I mean.

    Later, at least 3 others up top at the stadium said that they saw a possible hand ball, including a few independent witnesses (they asked me directly if I saw the hand ball). I did not see a hand ball.

    That said, the head ref was on the spot and had a direct dialog with the Cal captain, but I do not know what the HR said to Cal#10.

    It was probably a 50:50 call and the head ref chose not to make the call. I will say this, the HR did consistently consult with the ARs during the course of the match: as one would expect the best in class would.

  • Anon

    Was the HR a bald guy with gray hair?

  • ManO’War

    Possible hand balls usually are not, they are the ball hitting the hand, not someone trying to use their hands on the ball unfairly. Way too many hand balls are called, mainly because ‘intent’ is hard to judge presumably, but also because of the misunderstanding of the rules where every little nick draws a gasp and plea for a PK. (Otherwise, we should call the game ‘dodgeball’ because good players (like Rivas let’s say) can flick the ball up at an unsuspecting player and hit his arms/hands without too much difficulty – probably not a bad idea with some refs you get!)