No. 3 Academic SC is moving on in the postseason after they pulled off a 3-1 upset over No. 1 Davis FC this past Saturday on the road in the opening round of the National Premier Soccer League playoffs.
“We are ecstatic; the first year we make playoffs, we win the first game,” said Academica President Simon Bettencourt. “It has been a blessing and all the hard work the guys have put in all season is showing. I told them they really performed on the day and deserved that win against a top-level team.”
Prior to Saturday’s playoff game, Academica was coming off of a wild end to the regular season, which saw them go from fifth to third place in the span of their last game. They closed out the season by beating the East Bay Stompers, going 5-4-2 in league play and solidifying their spot in the postseason.
Heading into their first playoff game against Davis FC this past weekend, they were ready and as confident as could be facing the Golden Gate Conference winners. The two teams had met once before on May 18, where the game ended in a 2-2 draw from Academica’s home field in Turlock.
Regular season stats and standings were irrelevant on Saturday as Academica quickly proved they came to play.
“We recorded the match since we thought we could provide an upset,” said Bettencourt, who pointed out that local talent stacks up just fine against teams from larger areas. “As far as the landscape, it just shows there is a lot of talent in Merced and the Modesto tunnel…Academcia shows we can ball with the bigger cities, being from the Central Valley.”
They showed that and more, but it didn’t happen without a few hiccups along the way.
First, it took just 10 minutes for Davis to get on the board when they went up 1-0 after a high octane opening.
Both teams saw their chances, and Academica continued to press.
“We came back, kept our heads up and didn’t feel bad,” said Bettencourt. “They got a little secure from that goal and we were able to push up, and their keeper had key saves in the first half.”
Followed by a halftime score of 1-0, Academica then turned the switch.
“Possession was ours first half… very successful in high press and Sergio, our coach, knew if we maintained it we could create opportunities,” said Bettencourt.
They made the changes by the 60th minute while still down 1-0, and it took just seven minutes for momentum to shift completely.
Jose Barriga tied the game at the 67th minute after he took a shot deflection and in a scramble in the box, he put away his own rebound to tie it 1-1.
“That really jumped us up another level, gave us more energy,” said Bettencourt.
It was 15 minutes later when Academica jumped ahead 2-1, when Edwin Rodriguez struck the back of the open net with the help of a Cody Golbad assist.
The third goal for Academica was scored in the final minutes when Artemio Contreras found the net to make it 3-1.
“We were confident at that point, but they were dangerous in counter,” said Bettencourt. “And we probably had 30-40 traveling fans, in a crowd of 500, but we made noise for sure and after the upset, the crowd of 500 was stunned for sure.”
Following the victory, Academica advances to the regional semifinal to take on FC Arizona from the Southwest Conference in Mesa, Ariz., at 7 p.m. Saturday.
“A lot of these guys have big game experience whether college or at another level. Arizona will be hot, but we will train here in our heat and we will give them a good game,” Bettencourt said. “[We’ll] show them the Central Valley is a force to be reckoned with.”