The Garces boys soccer team is set for a historical night for Kern County soccer.
The Rams, seeded second in the CIF Southern California Regional Division III playoffs, hosts No. 6 Norwalk at 6 p.m. on Thursday at Sam Tobias Field.
This will mark the first time a team from the county will host a semifinal match-up in consecutive seasons since the state created the regional playoff model in 2008.
Last season, Garces defeated San Dimas in the semifinals at home before beating Pasadena-Marshall for the SoCal D-V title at home.
The Rams are also the only county team in the semifinals after three locals all lost in the opening round on Tuesday.
“We take pride in doing this for ourselves and the school,” Garces coach Robbie Gouk said. “We also want to show that Bakersfield is soccer strong.”
After beating Shafter 4-0 on Feb. 21 in the Central Section D-IV finals, the Rams earned a first-round bye on Tuesday and will hit the field on Thursday for the first time in 13 days.
But Gouk feels that the competitive spirit the players have within themselves is enough to keep the team ready for the game despite the time off since the section finals.
“Everyday these kids go out there, whether it’s a warm-up or coming back in the locker room, there is some sort of competition going,” Gouk said. “Everyday we are looking to compete. I think it’s been good for us to get a little rest.”
There is also the drive for the Rams (24-2) to show that last season’s run to the school’s first state title wasn’t a fluke.
Senior forward Moises Cisneros was a BVarsity All-Area first-team selection last season after scoring 28 goals and adding 18 assists and is back again with 21 goals and 19 assists this season.
Cisneros knows the team is driven to show that the talent and drive is there to chase a dream this program has had since last March.
“We all did this as a team,” Cisneros said. “But everyone thought last year was a fluke because it was in D-V. This year, we are in D-III and hopefully we can pull the rabbit out of the hat.”
Cisneros, who along with Alexander Halevey (30 goals, 17 assists) are one of the top scoring duos in the state, also feels the experience the team had from last season has helped them knowing they are in division two spots higher than last year.
“We know we need to go in hungry knowing we have to fight to win this game,” Cisneros said.
There is also a possibility that this might be the last home game for the eight seniors on the team with No. 1 Newhall-Hart taking on No. 5 Corona-Santiago Thursday at 3 p.m. in the other semifinal game. Cisneros knows that this is a special night.
“If it is (our last home game) we are going to give it our all,” Cisneros said.
CIF Southern California Regional Boys Soccer Division III Semifinals
No. 5 Norwalk (17-5-1) at No. 2 Garces (24-2)
Time: 6 p.m.
Location: Sam Tobias Field, Garces Memorial High School
Cost: $9 adults; $5 seniors/students/children
Gates open at 5 p.m.
How they got there
Norwalk: The Lancers finished second in the Suburban League standings, advancing to the Southern Section Division III quarterfinals, losing to SoCal D-III No. 1 seed Hart in PKs. Norwalk defeated No. 3 La Mesa-Helix 1-0 in the SoCal D-III opener on Tuesday.
Garces: The Rams went undefeated in Southwest Yosemite League play (10-0) and beat Shafter 4-0 in the Central Section D-IV finals. The Rams earned a first-round bye in the SoCal opener.