The Berkeley High boys’ soccer team continued its romp through the first round of ACCAL play on Thursday with an easy 5-0 win over Pinole Valley. The victory made the ’Jackets 6-0 in league play, having vanquished their main rival for the league title, Richmond, earlier in the week. But to hear Berkeley’s coach talk, one would think his team was in bad shape.
“You could say we’re in control of the league, but I don’t think we are,” Janu Juarez said after his team’s win on Thursday. “We have to go undefeated in league play to get an NCS spot, and that’s a lot of pressure to put on the kids.”
Juarez is still peeved over his team’s treatment at the hands of the North Coast Section seeding committee last season, when the ’Jackets tied with Richmond for the league championship. The Oilers were given a spot in the playoffs, while Berkeley stayed home. Juarez said he expects nothing different this year, since the ACCAL is considered a weak league by the seeding committee.
“We’ll only get one team in this year too, I’m sure,” he said. “We get no respect from the NCS.”
But no one can dispute Berkeley’s dominance in league play so far. They have outscored their opponents 30-2 and have yet to give up a goal from open play. Both goals scored against the ’Jackets have been from penalty kicks.
Berkeley sophomore Kamani Hill has devastated every opponent so far, scoring an astounding 14 goals in the team’s six league games. He continued his hot streak on Thursday, scoring a goal and an assist despite sitting for much of the second half as Juarez cleared his bench.
The outcome of Thursday’s game was never really in doubt, although it took a while for Berkeley to dent the Spartan net. Hill, Liam Reilly and Chris Davis all had narrow misses for the ’Jackets before Reilly finally headed home a Davis corner kick in the 20th minute.
It took just two minutes for Berkeley to score again, this time with Davis setting up Hill at the top of the box. The sophomore took one touch and blasted the ball past the Pinole Valley goalkeeper for a 2-0 lead.
The ’Jackets’ final goal of the first half looked an awful lot like luck. Reilly took the ball on the left sideline, then hit what looked suspiciously like an errant cross. But the ball curved high and towards the goal and nestled into the top corner of the net for another Berkeley goal.
With Hill, Davis and Reilly all resting at times during the second half, the Berkeley attack slowed a bit, but the Spartans couldn’t take advantage, getting off just four shots in the game. In the 73rd minute, Berkeley junior Chris Altieri-Dove dribbled down the right side all the way to the end line, cut back and shot the ball past the replacement goalie for the Spartans for his team’s fourth goal. Defender Jorge Ceja put the finishing touches on the win, standing dutifully at the back post as a Davis corner kick rolled through the box past several players. Hill got a tiny deflection on the ball, and Ceja finished it with authority.