by Che Womack, Contributing Writer
In the history of sports at St. John Bosco, the school has known to be competitive regardless of what sport is playing or who the Braves are playing against. In the recent years, the Bosco soccer program has struggled but nonetheless has tried to find its stride in the ranks of Bosco athletics.
In 2016, the Braves made the playoffs and found some success. However, in the last two years, the Braves have missed the playoffs and edged out at the bottom of the Trinity League. In 2017, the Braves went 6-14-3 (2-6-1 in league) and missed the playoffs; last year, the Braves went 12-12-2 (3-6-1 in league) and missed the postseason again. The team came together and decided that this year had to be different.
“I would say the difference was the chemistry of the team,” senior defender Christian Brueggeman said. “We were in unison all year, and we had the talent to contribute to the overall team. Chemistry definitely was a difference maker.”
This year, the Braves took off guns blazing. They started the year 11-2-1 before entering league play, with wins over Arizona powerhouses: Hamilton High School (Chandler, Ariz.) and Brophy College Preparatory (Phoenix, Ariz.).
When the Trinity League schedule began, the Braves started off with a 3-0-2 record. However, the Braves lost their mark, dropped four of the last five league games, and finished fifth in league.
Despite the rocky finish to the regular season, the Braves would receive an at-large bid in the Division 2 CIF-SS Playoffs.
The Braves rediscovered their early-season form and stunned some of Southern California’s most powerful teams. The Braves went on a four-game run and upset Dos Pueblos High School (Goleta, Calif.), Pacifica High School (Garden Grove, Calif.), Hueneme High School (Oxnard, Calif.) and Tesoro High School (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.), which avenged their 2016 playoff loss.
The most impressive point about the Braves’ run was their intense travel schedule. They traveled over 305 miles within 10 days and four games to upset these powerhouse teams.
“It was a great experience,” senior center back David Veloz said. “We would’ve rather played home, but nonetheless, it was still a great experience for us.”
Everyone on the team seemed to enjoy the experience of the opposing fans and long bus rides.
“We got to bond with each other,” senior outside back/outside midfielder Emilio Ceja said. “I got to experience the whole playoff environment with all the fans from every team that we played.”
In reward of these wins, Bosco made it to the CIF-SS Playoff Championship game, playing another SoCal power: Channel Islands High School (Oxnard, Calif.).
After a long-fought battle, the Braves fell to the Raiders 2-1 in overtime by the golden goal rule (sudden death).
“I feel like we tired out at the end,” Veloz said. “We came out too light, and we didn’t apply enough pressure. That was the difference maker.”
The Braves would then get an automatic bid to the CIF Southern Regional State Playoff Bracket. The Braves, again, would take off, beating Rancho Bernardo High School (San Diego, Calif.) in penalty kicks. Redemption time would come.
On March 5th, the Braves would get another chance at Channel Islands on their own home turf. This time, the Braves would take advantage and defeat the Raiders 1-0.
“We knew what it felt like losing to them,” Veloz said. “We didn’t want to lose to them again and have them take away another opportunity.”
The Braves would get, yet again, another opportunity in a championship game. This time, against a familiar foe in La Habra High School (La Habra, Calif.).
Previously, La Habra routed the Braves 5-2, in a blow out. The Braves would get another chance at the Highlanders, at Bosco’s house.
The Braves fought hard and gave it their all, but still came up short 4-2, in a heartbreaker.
“I would say we got caught up in the fact that we beat Channel Islands,” Brueggemen said. “We didn’t understand the significance of the CIF State Final until halfway through the game.”
The Braves had a great season and a successful journey.
A lot of hard work was put into the success of this year’s team, and a lot of excellent players are looking to return, to get the Braves back to the championship.
“We’re heartbroken for our seniors,” head coach Dave Sabet said. “However, we’re excited about our future and the young players we have coming back.”
The Braves have a host of underclassmen looking to return.
Tony Negrete, Christian Briseño, Joeo Trejo, and Mikel Villarreal are just a few of the names looking to bring the Braves back to championship games next season.
Bosco ended the year 22-8-3 (4-4-2 in league); CIF SS D2 Runner-Up and CIF SS D2 State Regional Runner-Up.