Men’s soccer reaches state’s Elite 8

For the seventh time in his 23 years as head coach of the San Diego City College men’s soccer team, Milton Hidalgo has been named Coach of the Year for the 2010 Pacific Coast Athletic Conference.

“The Coach of the Year award isn’t about me,” Hidalgo said. “It’s about my coaching staff and how our team dealt with adversity this season.”

At the season’s midpoint, Hidalgo’s father died — and that’s when his players turned it on.

“When my father passed away, I saw a sense of urgency in the team,” Hidalgo said. “They bonded and became more determined to win a championship.”

This season was by far the best Hidalgo has orchestrated since he took over the program 20 years ago. The Knights won 18 games, their highest total since 2005, and advanced to the Elite 8 state championship tournament. They were defeated 3-0 by No. 1 seed Mt. San Antonio in the third round.

“All season long, we were a strong and balanced team,” assistant coach Hans Witzell said in an e-mail interview. “Each and every week, our team made progression that made this season very special.”

In the game against Mt. San Antonio, the Knights trailed 1-0 early in the first half and couldn’t recover. City College moved the ball effectively but wasn’t able to score a goal.

“We got outplayed by the better team,” Hidalgo said. “The coaching staff and I couldn’t have asked anything more of our team efforts that day.”

Mt. San Antonio eventually went on to win the state championship and finish with a 19-1-4 record for the season.

The Knights played in a very hostile environment that forced Hidalgo and his staff into unusual coaching schemes. For example, during the season, City College had the luxury of playing on a field with a width of 62 yards, but Mt. San Antonio’s field was 76 yards wide.

Freshmen forwards Jonathan Zurita and Cameron Roget tried to put City College on the scoreboard but were frustrated by Mt. San Antonio goalkeeper Antonio Ontiveros. Ontiveros allowed only 12 goals all year while logging more than 1,530 minutes of game time, which ranked as fourth-best in the State.

Roget and Zurita had been more than consistent all season, scoring 23 goals between them.

“As a season.this was great,” Zurita said.

“As a player, I only want to get better.”

Zurita added a prediction for next year.

“In 2011, we will get it all,” he said.

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Men’s soccer reaches state’s Elite 8