Eric Solberg has taken Fresno City College to seven state final fours in men’s soccer.
But the Rams have never won it all under the 18-year coach. The latest opportunity arrives Friday.
A four-goal outburst in overtime triggered a 5-2 victory over Feather River in a North Regional semifinal Nov. 26.
The regional top-seeded Rams (18-1-4) will face defending state champion and South third-seeded Oxnard (14-2-8) at 4 p.m. Friday at Ventura College. The other semifinal has No. 6 Taft (14-4-6), Fresno City’s rival from the Central Valley Conference, going against South No. 1 Mount San Antonio (18-2-2).
The winners square off at 10 a.m. Sunday.
Under Solberg, the Rams were the runners-up in 2002 and have tied for third five times.
“We know that getting to the final four is a great accomplishment,” Fresno City defender Andres Rios said. “We’ve come together as a family and worked so hard all season with one thing in mind: to reach the state finals and win it.”
Leading the charge is freshman forward Jonathan Rodriguez, who has a team-leading 20 goals. Sophomore midfielder Noel Prieto has 15.
Solberg is confident.
“One game at a time,” Solberg said. “We have really preached that this year. This ranks as one of my best in 18 years. Now can they go prove it? They believe.”
Added Rios: “We just have to … believe in ourselves” to play a smart game.
“We need to stay focused and keep in mind all the people that have been with us throughout the season,” he said. “Let’s win it for each other, for the great coaching staff, for the great fans and supporters we have. Let’s do it for them because they deserve it more than anyone.”
Rams end three-year drought in volleyball – North second-seeded Fresno heads into the state volleyball quarterfinals after picking up regional wins over No. 15 Foothill and No. 10 Feather River.
The last time the Rams made a state championship tournament appearance was in 2012, finishing fourth.
This year’s eight-team, single-elimination event is Saturday and Sunday at Los Angeles Pierce College in Woodland Hills.
“We are excited to be continuing our season and the chance to compete for a state championship,” said first-year Rams coach Kieran Roblee, the NorCal Coach of the Year. “All the colleges that have advanced have amazing overall records and have had a strong strength of schedule throughout the season. We look forward to playing great volleyball against great teams.”
The Rams (27-1) will face South No. 3 Cypress (24-2) at 11 a.m. Saturday. Other matchups feature South No. 1 Grossmont (26-1) vs. North No. 4 Gavilan (23-6), South No. 2 L.A. Pierce (28-3) vs. North No. 3 Sierra (22-5) and South No. 4 El Camino (23-3) vs. North No. 1 and defending champion Cabrillo (24-2).
The semifinals follow at 5 and 7 p.m., with the championship match at 2 p.m. Sunday.
“We are aware that Cypress is a very balanced team with tremendous middles, and we look forward to the challenge that a strong team like Cypress presents,” Roblee said. “Our team focus has been and continues to be, ‘Just do us,’ and if we do us, I think good things will come from the tournament.”
Fresno City sophomore middle blocker Kylei O’Keefe is an All-State selection. She and sophomore setter Sydney Rigby are among the Rams relishing the opportunity on the state stage.
“We are all very excited for this weekend,” Rigby said. “We are definitely taking advantage of this last week of practice going hard and preparing for the competition. Mentally, I feel we are all in and will not disappoint.”