"Other teams would finish games and be looking to . . . work out some more. Some of our guys were more interested in where they'd put their surfboard."
--David Bierly, after resigning
as St. Bonaventure High boys'
soccer coach in May of 1996.
Surf may be up along the Ventura County coastline but the St. Bonaventure boys' soccer team finally has a bigger concern--its Southern Section Division V semifinal playoff game today against Palos Verdes Chadwick.
The Seraphs, who were 6-33-2 under Bierly during the 1994-95 and 1995-96 seasons, are in the playoffs for the first time in nine seasons and have been reborn under second-year Coach Mike Brand.
Brand, 26, works at an indoor skateboard park in Ventura and has worked wonders with St. Bonaventure in his spare time. A team that once made news only with lopsided losses and players quitting is now in the midst of a dream season.
"I wanted to make soccer fun again for the players because it hadn't been," said Brand, a 1989 Buena graduate who played two varsity seasons for the Bulldogs. "I've stressed individual skills and playing with desire."
Junior striker Alex Doran leads the Seraphs with 22 goals and standout goalkeeper Mike Conway is one of the team's 13 seniors.
"The raw talent was here, but most of it was on the junior varsity and no one took the time to work with it," said Brand, who helped train the 1995-96 team.
St. Bonaventure was 6-14-3 last season but scored more goals than in its previous three seasons combined. This season, the Seraphs were 2-3-4 at one point but have rallied to 9-5-9.
St. Bonaventure will be the site of a soccer playoff doubleheader today, with the boys' game at 1:30 p.m. and a 3:30 p.m. matchup between the Seraph girls' team and Paraclete in a Division IV semifinal. St. Bonaventure defeated the Spirits by 2-0 scores in a quarterfinal last season and a nonleague game Dec. 10.
The City Section boys' semifinals today pit eighth-seeded Reseda against fourth-seeded El Camino Real and 10th-seeded Bell against third-seeded Poly, assuring the Valley of a representative in Saturday's 6 p.m. title game at East Los Angeles College.
El Camino Real, which won in overtime against Monroe in the second round and Banning in the quarterfinals, is seeking a second consecutive trip to the championship game.
Last season the Conquistadores relied on a pair of dominant forwards and standouts at sweeper and goalkeeper. This season the team has survived with team defense and timely scoring.
Goalkeeper Karl Mayr is average, but he is fronted by stopper Sean Miller, one of the region's best defenders, sweeper Jeff Soll and freshmen fullbacks Jason Burbidge and Zach Feldman. El Camino Real starts one senior, five juniors, three sophomores and two freshmen.
It's been 56 days since the Simi Valley girls were beaten, a 3-1 loss to Agoura that was their only setback in Marmonte League play. Now, the Pioneers are in a Southern Section Division I semifinal for the first time since 1992 and host third-seeded Mission Viejo today.