Head coach David Sanyaolu said he believes that his Del Norte boys soccer squad is a team of destiny this year.
That has certainly seemed to be the case in the last couple games as the No. 5 seeded Warriors have gone down to San Francisco to pick up the school’s first two wins in the North Coast Section Division I tournament, including a 2-1 upset in extra time over No. 1 seeded International on Wednesday at Kezar Stadium.
“We can’t wait to move on. I think we are a team of destiny,” Sanyaolu said. “I told my assistant coach (Scott Souza) after International hit the cross bar a couple times that we are a team of destiny. We are going to get an equalizer, and then we are going to score a winner and it happened like that. We are still waiting to see who our opponent is going to be, and I just can’t wait for Saturday. It is going to be a fantastic game again, and I think we are going to win the championship.”
Both of Del Norte’s NCS playoff games this year have come in overtime, after the Warriors found themselves tied at the end of regulation. Although Saturday’s win over No. 4 ended up going into penalty kicks after 20 minutes of extra time, Sanyaolu said they played the classic format where all 20 minutes of extra time were guaranteed. Sanyaolu said extra time for Wednesday’s semifinal was played under the golden goal rule, also known as sudden death.
Against Gateway the Warriors felt their energy wane as the Gators controlled the extra 20 minutes of play, but against International Del Norte’s effort never wavered.
“We were tired but not as much. I think what kept us going was just our desire,” Sanyaolu said. “Even if the boys were tired you wouldn’t know. Everybody just kept running and fighting and fighting. We made some substitutions to give players rest here or there, and everybody chipped in. It was just a fantastic performance from my boys. Our grit won us the game today.”
Needing just a goal to immediately end the game, the Warriors went to work in extra time. In the fourth minute Brandon Lopez sent a bouncing cross pass into the box that found the foot of senior captain Johan Ramirez and bounded into the net to kick off another Del Norte celebration.
Although the Warriors were victorious, Del Norte left impressed with an International side that Saynaolu felt clearly deserved its top seed.
“Credit to those guys — they are the best team that we have ever played against. They were a well oiled machine,” Sanyaolu said. “They passed the ball better than us, and they were very fast. It was our heart, grit and desire that carried us through. When we had the ball later on in the game we were creating some problems for them, but overall they passed the ball. I have never seen a team like that — they are just a machine. The fact that we actually won says a lot about my boys’ character. My goodness, it was amazing that we got the victory today.”
International controlled the flow of the game and took a 1-0 lead midway through the first half on a nice shot from outside the 18 yard box.
Despite the early goal, Sanyaolu said the Warriors were especially sound defensively throughout the game, which allowed the Warriors to stay within striking distance.
“Our defense was rock solid. In fact the goal that they scored was from outside the 18 because they couldn’t penetrate our defense,” Sanyaolu said. “Our defense was fantastic. Johan, Gannon (Machado), Bryce (Howard) Vova (Sherman), Denmark (Daniel Bertelsen), Ramsey (Gonzalez), Chase (Gardner), Chago (Santiago Montanez), and everybody on the bench was just amazing. It was a united front and my boys were just amazing today.”
While the defense was strong throughout the match, Sanyaolu said he felt the Warriors’ ball control and their offense improved throughout the semifinal matchup.
“I think our confidence grew as the game wore on. We just gained confidence to attack them,” Sanyaolu said. “When the game started they were all over us with passes, good positioning and fast play. But as usual my boys grew into the game and we started causing some problems for them.”
Sanyaolu said that both teams had opportunities to score another goal in the first half, but the teams went into halftime with International leading 1-0.
“After halftime we made some substitutions, we got some attack going, and we were able to equalize the game in the 60th minute,” Sanyaolu said. “Denmark shot the ball, it ricocheted off of one of their players, and Ramsey was just there to tap the ball in. It was a good goal.”
Wednesday’s matchup was the first time in school history that the Warriors have competed in the NCS semifinals. In addition to adding to the team’s school record win total for this season, Del Norte’s victory was just the school’s second ever in the NCS playoffs — with both wins coming this week.
The victory also pushed the Warriors through to the NCS Division I championship match. As the No. 5 seed, Del Norte will be on the road for the championship game on Saturday. They will face the winner of No. 2 Fort Bragg and No. 3 Fortuna, which was also played on Wednesday, but results were not available when the Triplicate went to press. See Saturday’s sports section for more on the winner of the other semifinal.
“We will see, whoever we play we are ready for them,” Sanyaolu said. “I think our confidence is high and we have the belief that we can actually go all the way. To get a win from International was incredible. They are the best team that we have ever played — even better than Fortuna. Their passing and control was just excellent.”
Although Wednesday’s game was an eight-hour drive by bus, Sanyaolu said Warrior fans represented well and he hopes that there will be a similar turnout when the team plays for a championship Saturday.
“I just want to say that we appreciate all the people that came from Del Norte and Crescent City,” he said. “We had good support with our athletic director, people from the district office and parents were there cheering us on. I also want to thank my boys because they do all of the playing. I appreciate them for all of the effort and all of the desire that they put in. We are a united front, and the results that we have achieved this year show that.”