COSTA MESA — Unlike what happened five days hence, Orange Coast College men’s soccer coach Kevin Smith said he believed, on the field at least Tuesday night, his team got what it deserved.
Days after a blanket probation was announced for violating off-season practice restrictions on Friday, for which fall sports teams including men’s soccer had to give up one schedule contest as a penalty, the Pirates rallied to earn a 1-1 tie against a strong Long Beach visiting side.
“I don’t feel like we did anything wrong,” Smith said of the imposed probation for all OCC sports, which is being appealed to the California Community College Athletic Assn. “I don’t think we gained a real advantage for what happened and I think, for our kids to lose a game ... I thought it wasn’t their fault.”
There was more praise than blame delivered to the Pirates’ players on Tuesday as they battled under the lights of LeBard Stadium against the Vikings in an early season clash of unbeatens.
Long Beach entered 2-0, including a road upset of a Taft squad ranked No. 5 in one national preseason poll.
OCC came in 1-0, having canceled its scheduled game on Friday against Los Angeles Harbor to satisfy the terms of the probation.
Long Beach, which produced a 21-15 advantage in shots, opened the scoring in the 53rd minute, the only time it got the best of OCC freshman goalkeeper Nathan Brown, who finished with 12 saves, including a handful of highlight-reel, diving stops.
Brown, in fact, made a quality save on the scoring play, turning away a strong shot from about 10 yards directly in front of the cage by Long Beach sophomore forward Jose Torres.
The rebound, however, caromed back toward oncoming freshman forward Jose Pineda, who popped it inside the near post, before Brown could recover.
The Vikings’ only lead was, however, short-lived.
Just four minutes later, OCC sophomore forward Jorge Sanchez, a product of Costa Mesa High, banged in a well-placed cross from the corner by freshman Drew Parrish to knot the score for good.
It was a payoff for Sanchez, a first-team All-Orange Empire Conference performer in 2012, when he led the Pirates with 15 goals and seven assists. Late in the first half, Sanchez missed a pair of quality chances when a consecutive left-footed boots sailed just wide of the frame, drawing groans of frustration from OCC fans.
“If Jorge was hitting on all cylinders tonight, he probably would have had a hat trick,” Smith said. “The goal he scored, was probably the most difficult of his three best chances.”
Brice Manning, a freshman forward out of Newport Harbor High, had a team-best five shots for the hosts, for whom Smith singled out the play of freshman midfielder Garrett Stiffler-Greasby, Parrish, freshman defender Blake Mooney and freshman midfielder Adam Munoz, who came off the bench, but played most of the game.
Stiffler-Greasby made his most dramatic play on defense, drifting behind Brown to clear a shot off the back line that otherwise would have rippled the net.
“I told him after the game that I owe him a dinner for that one,” Brown said of Stiffler-Greasby’s crucial save in the 85th minute.
Brown saw his first action, after sophomore Connor Nelson made six saves in a 3-1 season-opening triumph over Rio Hondo.
“We have two keepers both doing really well,” Smith said. “Both are training really hard and pushing each other. [Brown] had a great game tonight and he made a really good case to keep the position. That being said, Connor had a great game as well. The competition seems to be bringing out the best in both of them. We’ll just keep evaluating them every day.”
In a statement released by OCC on Tuesday, Pirates Athletic Director Michael Sutliff said the men’s and women’s soccer teams, cross country teams, water polo teams and women’s volleyball team had their summer conditioning classes run two weeks, up till Monday, Aug. 12.
The official start of practice for fall sports teams was Thursday, Aug. 15, but OCC started on Aug. 12, apparently violating CCCAA rules.
Sutliff, however, said he is appealing the decision on several grounds.
“The liability coverage connects us to the fall term,” Sutliff said in the statement. “Second, we were operating under the Countable Athletic Related Activities law, which allows teams to practice out of season for up to 175 hours and those hours can reflect off-season meetings, instruction and clinics. It is our opinion that it was permissible to practice that week as a result of the liability coverage and how it directly covers sports in the fall term.”
CCCAA President Carlyle Carter said Tuesday that the case is in the appeal process and CCCAA policy is not to discuss specifics of ongoing appeal cases.
Sutliff said he hopes to have a ruling on the appeal by the end of September.