Soccer: Sonoma County Sol in position to reach playoffs

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

In a familiar position with playoffs at stake, the Sonoma County Sol look to stay hot in pro-am league soccer.

Riding a three-game win streak, the Sol are assured of ending a two-year playoff drought with a win tonight in their final home contest, against Sacramento.

“We’ve had a good run of games. But we do need to come out and put a good performance together,” said leading scorer Ross Middlemiss, formerly of Sonoma State.

A year ago, the Sol fell to Sacramento in the season finale and finished out of the playoffs.

Sol leaders like the team’s chances this season. With a strong corps of experienced hands and a mix of younger players, the Sol have improved to play best late in the campaign.

“Last year we had many injuries to our team; the team didn’t have a strong core of the same players every game, and the chemistry wasn’t there,” said midfielder and co-captain Chris Daly, from Sonoma Valley and another onetime Sonoma State great.

“This year we have built a strong bond between all the players.”

Familiarity found on the field over the three-month season has the Sol playing well in a system relying on ball control and sustained attacks.

“We play an attractive style of soccer, keeping possession and breaking teams down with good passing and not just trying to counter attack with long balls,” Daly said.

Team play is reflected in the scoring spread. Middlemiss has seven goals with several other players contributing, led by Michel Arroyo, a Sonoma State standout last season from Calistoga High. Another pair of skilled scorers just finished careers at Sonoma State — forward Justin Ferreira (Montgomery High) and midfielder Ebby Lombardi.

Without a solid back four, though, the Sol wouldn’t be aiming for the playoffs.

Angel Acevedo, who played at Healdsburg High, anchors the last line of defense. Also starting in back are Lee Summerscales, the Casa Grande boys coach; Lee Sandwina of Maria Carrillo who played at Virginia; and Trevor Tennant, from Sonoma State.

“When we’re doing well is when our defense has been solid,” Middlemiss said.

Among the first-year players leading the Sol surge are a pair of goalkeepers. Chris Hernandez, a former Windsor keeper, and James DelCurto, with a senior season remaining at Cardinal Newman, have shared duties in net.

“We have a good amount of players who have played many seasons together and have played at a high level for some years,” Daly said. “We also have a great young group of players who are teenagers and have fit right in with the group.”

Still, the Sol needed three wins in succession to get back in the playoff hunt.

Another win today and the Sol break a tie with Sacramento and take over second in the NPSL North West. Both are one point behind Oakland-based Bay Area. The Sol finish at San Francisco on July 7.

The top two teams from each NPSL division — spanning the nation — make the playoffs. The Sol want to still be playing in mid-July.

“We knew we had to kind of win out and we’ve had some positive results,” Middlemiss said. “We’re going after it.”

You can reach Staff Writer Michael Coit at 521-5470 or mike.coit@pressdemocrat.com.

SONOMA COUNTY SOL
National Premier
Soccer League

6-3-3 in league, 7-3-4 overall
Won 2009 NPSL title, the same season Sol last made playoffs

NPSL: Fourth level of U.S. professional ranks; Sol players are not paid, finding sponsors or paying their own way each season.

TODAY’S GAME
Final regular season
home game

7 p.m., Rancho Cotate High School
Tickets: $5 adults; Free for fans 18 and under