As the City College of San Francisco men’s soccer team labored up and down the hill between the school’s gym and library on a soggy winter day in February, coach Adam Lucarelli reminded his players about why they conditioned themselves so hard.
“I said, ‘Guys, we’re not doing this for now, we’re doing this for the playoffs six months from now,’” Lucarelli said.
After the Rams qualified for their second straight CCCAA Final Four last week, the team’s top goal scorer, Arnulfo Garcia, recalled those grueling runs.
“He said, ‘Hey coach, remember what you said when we were running hill repeats in the rain? It worked out,’” Lucarelli said.
After losing 2-0 to eventual national champion Mt. San Antonio, in last year’s Final Four, the Rams (18-0-4) committed themselves to one goal: winning a state championship. It’s what the guys talked about in the weight room, at practice and on those steep climbs up the hill. The Rams will get a chance to reach that goal at the Final Four in Walnut this weekend.
“We never deviated from that goal,” Lucarelli said. “We’ve been saying it for about nine months now.”
But first, the Coast Conference champions will need to beat Golden West in the state semifinal today. If they do, they’ll meet up with either Mt. San Antonio or Taft in the state title game Sunday.
The key to a CCSF victory is defense. The undefeated Rams allowed the fewest goals (11) in the state this season playing an Italian style of game with high-pressure defense and a quick counter attack. Sacred Heart Cathedral product Juan Palacio and center midfielder Alfredo Castaneda are the glue that binds the defense to offense, while Albany High graduates Andre Alvarez and Klan Ahmadi serve as a wall on the back line.
If the Rams can execute, all that talk about a state title could be realized.
“I don’t think we have to adjust our game too much,” he said. “We just have to play up to our potential.”