After back-to-back seasons of sub-500 records — 4-7-1 in 2017-18 and 4-5-3 in 2018-19 — the 2019-20 Santa Clara Bruins find themselves on the doorstep of clinching a De Anza League Title after a 5-0 win over Los Gatos on Valentine’s Day night. The win improves their record to 7-2-2 with just one game remaining — an away game against Palo Alto on Wednesday, Feb. 19.
Santa Clara already beat Palo Alto earlier this season, 3-0, in the league opener. Another win over the Vikings would clinch first place, but a tie or loss would open the door for the currently (as of Tuesday, Feb. 18) 6-2-3 Mountain View Spartans to tie/surpass Santa Clara for the league crown.
“I think our meeting that ended last year didn’t taste well for the juniors,” recalled Sequeira. “[Now a senior captain,] Zaid [Ansari] joked around during physicals on our first day back this year, ‘I can touch, I can feel that CCS trophy,’ so I think they have all wanted that goal. First one is the De Anza league and the next one is CCS.”
Perhaps lofty goals, or perhaps Ansari and the rest of his teammates simply knew they had a special team. The Bruins boys soccer program hasn’t won a league title since 2010, which is also the last year that has seen them qualify for CCS. It is apparent, though, that this year’s squad not only has the skill, but the camaraderie seen with most successful teams. Even towards the end of a 4-0 and then 5-0 blowout, starters who were now resting on the bench were going wild for nice plays and big saves from reserve players getting more playing time.
Bruins’ junior striker Tamba Di Mattia, who scored the Bruins’ second and third goals against Los Gatos, ended up speaking at length about his teammates being a family.
“Zaid is the one who brought me to start playing soccer in seventh grade, everyone on this team is someone whom we have grown up with, we went to middle school together,” said Di Mattia. “It’s beautiful, I’m not from America, but they brought me in as family and now they are all my family. I am very lucky to have a brotherhood with these guys, we are probably going to go out to eat right now. The team clicking and the vibe is all because we are all friends outside of the sport too. It’s not just the sport, we’re a family at this point.”
The family is a mix of cultures too, not only did Di Mattia and his family move here from Sierra Leone, West Africa, but senior Juan Perez Barraza just moved from Colombia a year ago. Perez Barraza scored the opening goal against Los Gatos at just the two-minute mark. The Bruins are a diverse family of players in more than just their home roots, but with the various ages too. The players went wild when the fourth goal of the game was scored by freshman Luis Fernandez. Senior defender Bailey Mungaray set Fernandez up with a great pass and then sprinted and jumped on his freshman teammate for scoring in his first ever varsity game.
“We’re just a team that competes, competes, competes, and when we see each other succeed we just want to congratulate each other,” chimed Mungaray. “Especially when it’s a freshman coming up on his opening day.”