In their last match for the 2012 regular season, the Gator men’s soccer team defeated the Cal State Domiguez Hills Toros 2-1.
The Gators celebrated “Senior Day” with their nine senior players Sunday afternoon. One of those players included injured defender Jose Vitela, who was announced as a starter but was subbed off within the first minute from head coach Joe Hunter. Hunter allowed Vitela to make the long walk from midfield as the crowd cheered him on when he received hugs from his teammates.
Vitela was injured in a match against Cal State San Bernardino at Cox Stadium on Sept. 21.
“It was nice to feel loved,” Vitela said. “I started to get a bit emotional as we got closer to the last game, and then (today) it all hit me.”
According to senior Sasha Chalak, the players wanted to do something for Vitela, who has been on the bench most of the season.
“I was injured most of the season with him, so I feel his pain,” Chalak said. “I was brought to tears when he kicked the ball out, because he has had a hell of a career here.”
Despite the Gators’ celebration, the Toros went on the board first when a ball slipped through the defense by junior Jio Santana that midfielder Miguel Vazquez put past Gator senior Anthony Rodriguez.
However, senior Luis Fidel Medina was able to answer quickly with an effortless free kick from 35 yards out that clipped a Toros defender and went in, bringing the Gators even at 1-1 in the first half. Medina celebrated the strike by running the corner flag and making motions like a sharpshooter.
The Gators won a penalty in the middle of the second half on a handball in the box, which would have taken the lead at the time, but the Toro keeper Trey Mitchell parried Gator freshman Sam Merritt’s attempt.
Junior Jairo Magana and senior Edgar Villagrana were able to link up in the box, with Magana slipping Villagrana through on goal. This left only the keeper in the forward’s path as Villagrana powered his shot past him for his fourth goal of the season — his last in the purple and gold kit.
“It may be only the first or second time we’ve ever beaten them (Dominguez Hills). They’re always a top team,” Hunter said. “It’s been up and down all season, and that team from these last four games, that is the team I thought I had all season. We can compete with anybody, and the theme in the locker room is ‘don’t quit.’”