The first 12 games of the Santa Barbara boys soccer team schedule had them playing on the road.
Friday night marked the first time this season the Dons were able to play at home — or at least the place they will call home this year, Warkentin Field — and they put on a great show.
Santa Barbara scored two goals in the first half and matched it in the second to defeat Camarillo 4-0 and improve to 11-1-2.
“It was nice to be able to play in front of the fans, other than the ones that have been commuting with us to all the games so it was really nice to see all of them tonight and at least shake the rust off,” Santa Barbara coach Todd Heil said.
Friday marked the third straight year that the Dons will be playing their home games at San Marcos High. While certainly frustrating, Heil is used to the situation.
“Our home games will be here at 7 p.m. and they’ll always be following one of the San Marcos’ teams whether it’s the boys or girls. It’s just what we’ve done and that’s what we’re gonna have to do again this year,” Heil said.
No matter what pitch the Dons are on, they seem to have a formula for success.
The beginning of the match saw Santa Barbara put a lot of pressure on Camarillo. In the eighth minute, the Dons broke through. Junior defender Jackson Wolf flicked the ball up ahead beautifully to Juan Carlos Torres.
Torres controlled the pass inside the box forcing the keeper to come out, then slid it past him to find Miguel Alvarado attacking the backside post for the easy finish.
“That’s most of my goals. They are nice little tap-ins that should be going in. I should be there and I’m there and it’s a good thing that we finished those,” Alvarado said.
“It’s good to feel that you are in front of everyone else, that you’re there alone.”
Alvarado has been a key difference this year for Santa Barbara.
His goal scoring allows the Dons to have mutliple options offensively and not just rely on Torres.
The junior, who is playing in his first year of varsity, is always putting the pressure on the other team. His speed allows him to win balls and get by defenders. He is also usually in the right place at the right time.
“(My job) is always to put them under pressure and make them feel uncomfortable that way we get our momentum up before they do, and we get our scoring opportunities and score early,” Alvarado said.
Even though Alvarado is usually the smallest man on the pitch standing at about 5-2, that does not scare him from making plays.
“Going against six-foot defenders that should be winning headers against me and they don’t because I jump higher always makes me feel a little better, it fires me up,” Alvarado said.
Being at home also fired up Alvarado as he knew he wanted to make a play in front of that crowd.
“Once you score, and you hear everyone roaring, everyone excited, it brings up the momentum as a team. Honestly, it feels good to score early, that way everyone gets on track and we’re all running, we’re all going towards the ball trying to score another one,” Alvarado said.
Not even 10 minutes after Alvarado’s score, the Dons found their second goal of the match. It was Wolf again creating the action, passing the ball up ahead to Torres, only this time Torres didn’t control it.
In fact, the senior captain put a foot on it and flicked it over the goalkeeper’s head to give the Dons a 2-0 lead.
“I try and just let our forwards do what they do really well and that’s put the ball in the back of the net so I try and set JC (Juan Carlos Torres) and Cason (Goodman) for their best opportunities and let them do the rest,” Wolf said.
In the 61st minute, Torres, running down the left flank, played the ball into the box and found Sebastian Alvarez who put it away for the score.
“(Torres) creates a lot for us. He’s dangerous, he’s physical, he’s getting us back to where he was probably toward the end of last season fitness-wise,” Heil said.
The Dons’ Luisangel Jeronimo capped off the scoring in the 69th minute after firing a shot that found the top right corner.
Following the win, Santa Barbara will now shift its attention to Channel League play. The Dons might be the favorite to repeat as champions, but there is a lot of competition.
But, even though this is Alvarado’s first time facing the pressure of that competition the junior, much like the rest of the team, is ready for the start of Channel League play Thursday at Santa Ynez.
“It’s gonna be a challenge for sure because I haven’t really seen how everyone plays but as a team, we’re looking good. I like contributing, so as long as I do my part, everyone else can do their part then and I feel like we will be good,” Alvarado said.