By Matt Smith
Thursday, February 24th, 2011 at 9:29 pm in Boys soccer.
All season has led up to this.
Division I – at Dublin High, 7:30
No. 2 Newark Memorial (23-3-0) v. No. 8 De La Salle (17-6-3)
This is a rematch of a great semifinal game in 2009 when Newark took what was a nearly unstoppable De La Salle team to overtime. Now Newark is the higher seed, and the team that is on the roll with 23 wins in their last 24 matches.
The Cougars are rolling, and their confidence is very high because of it.
“Right now, our boys are confident and playing hard,” Newark coach Rick Villa said. “I tell them if they come out and play tough, the results will come, and I think our record shows this.”
But that doesn’t mean that Newark is taking De La Salle lightly. In fact, it’s quite the opposite as they know that a team seeking a third straight North Coast Section title will not go down easily.
“Playing DLS is going to be a tremendous challenge,” Villa said. “They are solid from back to front. We are excited to be in this position to test ourselves against the two-time defending champs.”
During their back-to-back title runs, the Spartans have always had one thing in common. Execution, hard work, discipline and most of all, resiliency. This team, which was not expected or predicted to be in this postion, embodies that more than any other team before it.
“I cannot say enough about these boys and their resiliency this year,” De La Salle coach Brian Voltattorni said. “I have been apart of the DLS program since 1997 (as player and coach) and without a doubt this group of boys have been through more adversity both on and off the field than any other team that I have been apart.”
Every team goes through injuries, but this year’s De La Salle squad has had more than anybody could imagine.
Just like everyone, they have been playing with pulled hamstrings and sprained ankles, but beyond that, all three of their captains have been sidelines for extended periods of time, and the team has suffered four broken bones.
Two of them have been suffered by the same player, top scorer Sullivan Tobin. After coming back from a broken nose suffered in a collision with San Ramon Valley’s Dallas Jaye, Tobin broke his collarbone, putting him out for the year. Oh ya, and Michael Bernardi is wearing a cast on his broken wrist.
Voltattorni said it was more injuries than he could ever imagine, yet De La Salle has persevered. Despite starting league play with two losses, and despite facing three EBAL teams in the playoffs, they have marched to the finals.
“They say a true test of a man is how they deal with adversity,” Voltattorni said. “Well I can say that I am more than happy with the young men of this team. They have already proven themselves to me and their teammates for overcoming so much this year. I couldn’t be more pleased as a coach.”
Analysis: Newark has been dominant and has outscored their opponents 13-1 in the playoffs, while De La Salle has battled through by edging out their opponents. However, is their anybody out there doubting the Spartans at this point? This should be a very entertaining match with the organization of the De La Salle defense as well as their execution on set pieces against the fast-paced, high-powered Newark offense.
Division II – at Los Lomas High, 5:00
No. 1 Campolindo (19-1-6) v. No. 2 Acalanes (18-2-6)
When the Campolindo Cougars suffered their first, and only, loss of the season at the hands of the Dons, many people figured these two teams would meet again in the NCS finals. And after splitting their first two matches, and now entering with similar records, it will truly be a rubber match that decides the better team.
For Campolindo to be that team, it will take getting past an Acalanes defense that has not allowed a goal in the playoffs, and has allowed just 11 of them all year.
“The Acalanes defense is extremely compact and organized, and they are the most physical team we’ve seen all season,” Campolindo coach Shane Carney said. “Once you get through their defense, you still have to get the ball past Jackson Foote, which is no easy task. The way to beat their defense is going to be with patience and composure in the offensive build-up. They want us to force and rush our offense under their high pressure and turn the ball over for counterattacks. If we want to beat them, we have to play our game, be patient, and take advantage of the moments when their defense gives us even the slightest opening.”
And those openings don’t come about very often against the Dons, and if anything starts to open up, the staff is quick to make adjustments that usually work.
We have key components of defense in our program. If the boys continue to execute on those they will obtain the result they have worked for,” Acalanes coach Paul Curtis said. “Tactics is a part of all higher level matches, I’m confident that both teams will have a tactical strategy they are hoping to execute well.”
Carney understands that tactics are part of the game, but doesn’t expect either team to make major changes to a system that is working well.
“I don’t think there will be too many tactical changes either way,” Carney said. “I think both Paul and I are confident in our styles and think we can win with what we’ve been putting on the field all season. There will obviously be small changes here and there, but I don’t expect to see any major changes.”
What you can expect is for Acalanes to play lock down defense for much of the night, and strike at opportune times while Campolindo will look to push the action a bit more, but also will be play air tight in the back.
Analysis: These two teams will look very similar to fans who haven’t seen them yet. They both play hard, and play the game the right way. Aggressively, but without being dirty. Campo plays a bit more fast paced and open on offense, while Acalanes style will be a little more defensive, but they are pretty similar nonetheless. They are also very familiar with one another, so a tweak or change here and there could be the difference.