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BOYS' SOCCER

It's Become a Keeper of a Season for the Raiders

February 20, 2001|DAVE McKIBBEN

When Sonora High goalkeeper Tim Gonzalez collided with a Los Altos player and had to leave the Raiders' first-round playoff game with a spleen injury, Sonora Coach Cory Witt looked around and wondered if someone was out to get him.

But after allowing himself a few seconds of self-pity, Witt turned to backup defender Mike Susoeff and sent him in between the posts. Susoeff, Sonora's fifth-string goalkeeper who entered Saturday's game late in the first half, wound up combining with Gonzalez for a shutout in Sonora's 4-0 victory.

Susoeff, a junior who has occasionally filled in for Gonzalez, will start Wednesday against visiting Santiago (18-5-3) and for as long as Sonora remains alive. Gonzalez, a senior all-league wide receiver who also handled Raiders' kicking chores, will not return this season.

Gonzalez wasn't expecting to play soccer at all this season. But when Witt's first three goalkeeper quit the team for various reasons, Gonzalez became an option.

"The suggested Tim because he had good hands and he was athletic," Witt said. "When I asked him if he thought he could play, he said, 'I can do anything. I'm an athlete. Just teach me.' That was a calming feeling for me after what I'd been through with the first three guys. I was nice to know someone was going to stick with it."

Gonzalez took instruction well. He had seven shutouts overall and five in the Freeway League, which Sonora won easily with an 8-0-2 record.

"He was just an animal out there," Witt said. "He dove for loose balls like he was diving for a fumble."

Gonzalez has had some help. Witt said that without senior sweeper Nazario Miramontes, opponents would be using Gonzalez for target practice.

"He's our backbone," Witt said. "People just don't get by him and, if they do, they usually don't get a shot off. He made three mistakes all year and they were all costly."

Sonora, which won its first Freeway League title in seven years, hasn't lost since a Dec. 27 loss to Vista in the Oceanside Holiday tournament. The Raiders (17-4-2) are riding a 14-game unbeaten streak and are in the second round for the first time in four years.

Senior forward Kyle Warsinski leads the team with 12 goals and four assists and midfielder Patrick Newton has nine goals and two assists.

COUNTY DOMINANT EARLY

Last year, Orange County showed its strength by having at least one representative in all five boys' Southern Section finals.

It could happen again.

After the wild-card round and the first round, only one top-10 county team was eliminated. Eighth-ranked Fountain Valley was beaten in double overtime by Diamond Bar.

LOOKING AHEAD

Woodbridge (18-4-4) hosts Huntington Beach (12-6-1), ranked 10th and seventh in Orange County, are meeting Wednesday.

"It's a game between two teams that wouldn't want to play each other if we had the choice," Woodbridge Coach Jon Szczuka said. "But this is CIF and we just got unlucky."

If you have an item or idea for the boys' soccer report, you can fax us at (714) 966-5663 or e-mail us at david.mckibben@latimes.com

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