Cate is playing its best soccer in the postseason.
The Rams posted their third straight shutout in the playoffs Friday shutting down a potent Ontario Christian attack in a 2-0 CIF Division 6 quarterfinal win at Cate.
Cate advances to Tuesday’s semifinals and will host top-seeded Rialto-Carter.
Midfielder Leighton Brillo-Sonnino led a solid defensive performance that limited Ontario Christian to just one shot. The Knights (20-3) came into the game with 85 goals.
“Leighton was a beast in the midfield,” Cate coach Peter Mack said. “This is what we’ve been trying to do, taking away the other team’s midfield. If they want to launch long balls, then we got Joshua back there to clean them up.”
Brillo-Sonnino rose to the challenge of battling against a taller opponent.
“We’ve been working a lot on stepping up and winning headers. I think that made the difference today,” he said. “They really didn’t have that much time in the air. They were more physical than us and they were bigger than us. We just outworked them.”
Georgetown commit Joshua Yaro and Abraham Tall supplied the goals for the Rams, who improved to 15-2-2.
Yaro scored in the 21st minute after outside midfielder Iman Fardghassemi earned a corner kick. Geoffrey Acheampong delivered the corner kick that was deflected back to him. He followed with a low cross that Yaro put away at the near post.
Thanks to the defensive effort in the midfield, Cate controlled ball possession and frustrated the Knights.
“Leighton was great, Justin (Kim) was great, Abraham was great, Geoffrey was checking back in the midfield and taking care of defensive pressure,” Mack said. “They only had one shot, and that came in final two minutes of the game. That’s a pretty good stat line.”
The Rams put the match away on Tall’s goal in the 52nd minute. Yaro, Cate’s All-CIF center back started the well-executed play with a run up the middle. He slipped a pass to Tyler Douglas on the left side and Douglas hit cross that Joel Serugo deflected to an onrushing Tall, who beat Ontario Christian goalkeeper Brandon Mouw at the far post.
If not for Mouw’s outstanding goalkeeping, the Rams could have won by a larger margin. He also got help from the crossbar on a blistering free kick from Acheampong. The ball hit the bar so hard it shook the entire frame.
Acheampong’s skill was dazzling. He befuddled Ontario Christian players with slick dribbling and passing.
“What Geoffrey has learned to do this year, and I’ve been amazed how he’s grown as a player, he’s not over dribbling. He likes to carry the ball, but he’s finding his teammates and he’s finding them early; he knows when to release the ball. You saw how much attention he attracts and when that happens guys are open.”
When Cate did lose the ball, the defense quickly won it back. Brillo-Leighton and Justin Kim did yeoman’s work in the center of the field and Yaro cleaned things up in the back.
“The Cate defense showed the kind of composure that has resulted in allowing only eight total shots so far in three playoff games,” Mack pointed out. “I can’t say enough about the composure, intelligence, and work ethic of these guys. Talent only takes a team so far, and understanding this, our players continue to find ways to be better — both individually and collectively. This is a team of workhorses and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
Mack said he’s not surprised the team has reached the Division 6 final four. They won the last two Division 7 titles, but lost All-CIF players like goalscorers Ema Boateng, Avery Schwartz and goalkeeper Blake Wands.
“Our team expected to be here,” he said. “I knew if we played the way we can play and play together as a group we could be.”