By Jesse Muñoz/COC Sports Information Director
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — College of the Canyons is champion of the Western State Conference (WSC), South Division for the first time in program history after defeating host Bakersfield College 1-0 on the final day of the regular season.
In what was a closely contested match, the action finally opened up early in the first half when COC sophomore Andres Lozano earned his side a penalty kick on a ball over the top. Canyons head coach Phil Marcellin elected to have sophomore Jorge Rojas take the kick which found the back of the net to give COC a 1-0 lead in the 12th minute.
That goal would prove to be all the scoring needed as COC goalkeepers Gabriel Ochoa and Emerson Chavarria combined for seven saves and the clean sheet. Ochoa got the start and was credited with the win.
The Cougars did experience a late scare when a Bakersfield corner kick dropped in front of an uncovered Renegade player just inside the box. But the shot went wide to the right and Canyons closed out the final two minutes of stoppage time to secure its first conference title.
Canyons (10-6-3, 7-2-1) won four of its final five games down the stretch to cap a historic season and accomplish a goal that was established early last spring.
On Oct. 9 the Cougars opened conference with a 2-0 home win over Citrus College, marking the first time the men's program had captured three points in a WSC opener.
COC went on to post a 3-0-1 mark across its first four conference matches before suffering a 2-0 home defeat at the hands of this same Bakersfield team on Oct. 23.
After that home loss Canyons rattled off three straight wins, scoring 13 goals in the process, to set up a potential clinch game vs. Antelope Valley College last Tuesday. In another tight and physical match AVC managed to sneak a ball over the line in the 89th minute to hand Canyons a disappointing blow.
In the moments that followed Canyons huddled its players together on the field with a reminder to stay focused on their goal and regroup before Friday's road trip north. And that's exactly what they did.
"So many emotions at the end of the match," said Marcellin after his team's win over Bakersfield. "Having been so close so many times, missing the opportunity to close it out last Tuesday at home. To finally get over the mark was amazing!"
Marcellin, who is in his 16th season leading COC's men's program, has led the squad to a 127-145-63 overall record and three postseason appearances in that span. In 2010 Marcellin's team made it all the way to the CCCAA State Championship match.
Prior to launching the men's program in 2003, Marcellin guided COC women's team to four WSC Championships (1999, 2000, 2001 and 2004) and five trips to the postseason. He also won a pair of conference titles during his tenure as head coach of Bakersfield's women's team (1994,1995).
But until now, a men's conference title had eluded him.
"I'm getting texts, emails and social media posts from so many COC alumni who are celebrating this achievement with the guys," added Marcellin, "which makes it even more special."
Canyons is returning to the postseason for the first time since its 2010 run to the state championship.
The CCCAA Men's Soccer Southern California Regional Playoffs will get underway Saturday, Nov. 17. Play will culminate at the State Championship Tournament Nov. 30 & Dec. 2 at Ventura College.
Playoff seedings and schedules will be announced Tuesday, Nov. 13.
Stay up to date on all this season's action by following the College of the Canyons Athletic department on social media at @COCathletics on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.