Las Positas goalkeeper Brannon Dwyer’s heartfelt words captured the essence of the Hawks’ fighting spirit after a 2-0 loss to West Valley in Round 2 of the CCCAA NorCal playoffs Tuesday afternoon. “I played my heart out, the rest of the guys played their hearts out,” Dwyer said calmly. “West Valley was a really good team.”
The tough defeat ended the Hawks' rousing 16-game unbeaten run under second-year head coach Andy Cumbo that dated back to Sept. 19.
Skillful Pablo Ramirez Belmont delivered the win for West Valley with a first-class goal in each half. The fourth-seeded Hawks upended Canada-Redwood City 1-0 in Saturday's first round on a last-second finish by Ali Amin. Even with Tuesday’s result, Cumbo’s program keeps taking positive steps. The Hawks (14-4-6 overall, 9-0-4 Coast-North) went unbeaten in conference for the first time and hosted two playoff games for the first time as well.
“I’m proud of the guys,” Cumbo said. “They believed in each other and the coaches, and I’m proud of them. They had a good year.”
Against West Valley, though, the game-changing finish did not come. The Hawks were shut out for just the second time all season, and for the first time since Sept. 5. Cumbo thought the Hawks held West Valley in check for most of the first half, but disaster struck when Ramirez Belmont found a seam in the middle and headed in a dream goal on a cross from Jose Valencia, the perfectly struck shot dipping over the 6-foot-6 Dwyer into the net.
“It was just that snap header,” Dwyer said of the goal in the 28th minute. “I was off my line a little bit, but it was just a good goal.”
Cumbo described the goal as unlike any the team had conceded this season. The Hawks surged in the second half as expected with the wind finally at their back, but Ramirez Belmont effectively clinched the victory with a goal on a quick hit.
“In the second half I think we had a lot of good moments,” Cumbo said. “We had two corner kicks in the first two minutes. We had the ball in their box a lot, we had some deep throw-ins. ... But the ball just didn’t bounce our way. Overall, we had our opportunities, West Valley had theirs and they capitalized.”
Dwyer, a sophomore out of Redwood High who is ranked third in the state in save percentage at .886, thinks the Hawks’ young cast will benefit next season from their playoff experiences this season. "It's just experience that we lacked today," he said.
--- Matt Schwab, Las Positas Athletics Media Relations