SOCCER: Rams roll through first round of playoffs

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Gavilan picked a good time to play its best soccer of the year. The No. 10 Rams defeated No. 7 Modesto Saturday in the opening round of the North Regional playoffs.

The Rams, who haven’t lost in seven games, will travel to No. 2 City College of San Francisco at 2 p.m. on Tuesday.

Even tough the Rams (12-6-4) were on the road, they had a large enthusiast fan base who followed them into the valley.

“We probably had double the Modesto supporters,” Gavilan coach Justin Johnson said. “It was really nice and a good way to start off the game. I wasn’t expecting this good of a showing. The guys were ecstatic afterward. Everyone was pumped up.”

While this is Gavilan’s first playoff appearance, San Francisco (16-0-4) is no stranger to postseason play, making it to the final four in the state last year and were the North Conference North Division champion this season. Gavilan lost 4-1 to San Francisco on Oct. 16 but hasn’t lost since.

“I think we learned a lot from that game,” Johnson said. “That was a big part of why we went on the run. Hopefully we can carry that with us.”

Even though San Francisco has the higher seed, Johnson said he expects to be able to stay with them.

“I think we have the power to play with them straight up,” Johnson said. “We’re not backing down. We are going to go at them and pressure them and see what they got. We are not going to sit back on our heals.”

Alendro Gaeta scored the only goal against Modesto midway through the first half off on an assist from Anthony Velesquez.

“It was a really big field, so we tried to spread the field out,” Johnson said. “Their keeper did a really good job. Modesto is a good team. They had a few really talented players.”

Johnson credits players in the middle like Fabian Ruis, Josh Gonzalez and Andy Moya for controlling the pace of the game for the Rams. Left back Luis Galivan played his best game of the season, Johnson said. And Gavilan goalie Eric Saavedra stayed sharp despite limited Modesto chances and had four saves.

“I thought we were a better team for most of the game,” Johnson said. “We were much more fit than that team, and we were really able to take control in the second half. I just wish we could have scored more goals.”

The Rams returned to the practice field on Sunday eager to get started preparing for the next round.

“We are deep on the bench,” Johnson said. “We have a lot of role players – guys that can step in. We don’t have any real superstars – just a lot of good players willing to accept and execute their roles. We are real happy with where we are. Now we are just trying to take it one step further.”

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