Following an undefeated regular season and winning the West Alameda County Conference (WACC), the Berkeley High School (BHS) boys’ soccer team went on to conquer an even greater feat: winning the Division I North Coast Section (NCS) championship. On Saturday, February 23, the BHS boys’ soccer team faced De La Salle High School. With the stands packed full of BHS students and parents, the atmosphere was one of spirit and pride. Going into the second half, the game was tied 0-0. However, the Jackets pulled together as a team and came out on top with a final score of 4-1.
The team’s journey through NCS has been one full of excitement, accomplishment, and victory. In the first round of NCS, the Jackets hosted James Logan High School and dominated the game, ending with a final score of 8-2.
In the quarterfinals, the team played against Dublin High School. The game went into overtime after the score remained at 1-1. In the first few minutes of overtime, senior Kinlay Watkins scored the winning goal and the team walked away victorious once again.
In the semifinals, BHS faced off against Amador Valley High School, a team they had tied earlier in the season. In an exciting game, BHS proved their skill by beating the Dons 3-1.
Senior Ross Schultz said that going into the NCS games, their main focus was “starting off the game stronger and harder than the other team and not letting pressure and nerves get to us.” Junior and WACC Player of the Year Kalani Kossa-Rienzi added that the team was confident they could win at their full potential, but in order to do so they need to sustain their high level of play over the course of four games.
One thing that sets the NCS games apart from the regular season is the fact that they are “win or go home” games. Because of this, the atmosphere is often more spirited and intense. Kossa-Rienzi spoke to this, and said, “It’s insane, you have your fans chanting for you and singing and yelling while the other teams fans are trying to get in your head and talking to you the whole game.” Leo Garcia, a senior, added, “The atmosphere was amazing. The fans really played a big part in our success. They created an environment where everyone wanted to work harder to win.”
All the players described the win against De La Salle as amazing. The hard work of the past four months paid off and resulted in another NCS championship win, the last being in 2017. “It felt amazing to be leaving high school with memories of winning and contributing to an NCS championship,” Schultz said. Garcia added that winning the NCS championship truly highlighted the saying that hard work pays off. “It was a feeling that we will remember forever. It was magical,” said Lucca Cerny, a senior. This win was not only monumental for the boys’ team, but to the BHS soccer program as a whole as it highlighted yet another accomplishment of BHS soccer.
Not only was the boys soccer program successful this year, but the girls’ soccer team had a great season as well. The team ended their season with an overall record of 13-3-2 and a league record of 7-0-2. Going into NCS, the team was seeded sixth and won their first round game of NCS at home against College Park High School. The team then went on to play Liberty High School in the quarterfinals and, unfortunately, lost in overtime. However, this should not overshadow the various accomplishments of the girls’ soccer team. In addition to drastically improving their record, the previous season’s record was 5-8-9 overall, this year’s team won first in WACC league.
Going forward, because of their victory in NCS, the boys will now advance to compete for a statewide championship. Schultz emphasized the need for a strong start during the state games, and said, “We have to come out strong from the start and not underestimate any team as we haven’t seen or played most of the teams in our bracket.” As the teams will begin to face off against even tougher competitors, they reiterated that their goal remains the same: to stay undefeated and win state. The team won its first round game against Montgomery High School, on Tuesday 4-1. At the time, Montgomery was the only other undefeated team in Northern California, having tied BHS 3-3 the last time they played.
The team lost for the first time this season on February 28, in the second round game against Jesuit High School in penalty kicks, ending their run for state. Despite losing their status as undefeated, the boys leave the season with an incredible NCS championship under their belts.
Throughout the season, the strong bond and love between the boys was evident. “There is nothing we couldn’t achieve together” and that the boys always play for and support one another. As Kossa-Rienzi said, “We aren’t just a team. We say it over and over again. We’re a family until the end.”