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Panther Soccer 2013

Following the previous weekend’s very controversial first loss of the season at Fort Bragg, the AV Panthers needed to get back on track and put that game behind them as quickly as possible. With the struggling Geyserville team visiting the Valley last Wednesday, they were given ample opportunity. The Broncos were promoted to League 1 at the end of last season, one during which Geyserville had handed AV one of its most shocking ever defeats. But Geyserville has struggled at the higher level and look certain to return to League 2 at the end of this campaign.

The Panthers seized the match with a goal in just the second minute but then missed a series of chances to increase their lead. It was a disappointing first half performance from the home team, although playing with any level of significant intensity is not easy in such matches. The whole Panther squad were able to get some playing time in this one-sided affair, even the final 8-0 score line does not indicate AV’s superiority. The goals came from Erik Martinez with 4, and one each from Chirro Tovar, Pancho Lievanos, Gualberto Gastelum, and normal first choice ‘keeper, Gerardo Torales who played as a striker in the second half, with back-up goalie Francisco Espinoza playing “between the sticks.” Up next for the Panthers was Roseland Prep last Wednesday afternoon, and with these two teams tied at the top of the standings, this match was set to go a long way in deciding the regular season title.

* * *

On a warm afternoon in Santa Rosa, AV and Roseland resumed their ongoing series of top quality high school matches in front of a large crowd of boisterous home fans. Roseland has won the regular season title for the past three seasons but AV’s overall record in the past seven seasons against the Knights is good, having won seven and lost just three, with five draws.

The game started at a frenzied pace with both teams holding nothing back. The Panthers were unfortunate not to get a penalty kick in just the 5th minute when Erik Martinez was brought down following one of his trademark bursts into the penalty box but the referee turned down the loud appeals by the Panther players and coaches. Following a very even first twenty minutes, Roseland began to dominate the play, something no other team has done this season against A.V., and there were a number of last-ditch clearances by the overworked Panther defense to keep the game scoreless. However, in the 32nd minute, a Roseland winger sent in a cross from the left to the center of the goalmouth despite the attentions of two Panther players. The ball found a Knight striker unmarked by any of the three defenders who were static as the ball went beyond them. The striker simply had to stoop low and place a header wide of Gerardo Torales in the Panther goal and into the net. It was a poor goal to concede but it meant that it was 1-0 to Roseland at the half.

The score line was probably a fair reflection of the half as a whole but the Panthers came out for the second half determined to get back on terms. Unfortunately those plans were thrown into disarray within just two minutes of the restart. A momentary lack of concentration again enabled too much room in the Panther penalty box for a Roseland striker to steady himself just twelve yards from goal before sending in a low drive into the far corner of the goal. There were six defenders to four attackers at the time but a moment of hesitancy, something good teams invariably take advantage of, had cost the Panthers dearly. It was 2-0 to the hosts and the Panthers’ heads dropped.

Roseland continued to have the majority of the play as they combined excellent skills with work rate and overall team play that was a notch above that of the Panthers on the day. No further goals were scored as Roseland secured a deserved victory and A.V were kept scoreless for the first time this season. A number of Panther players were excellent and deserve special mention. In the heart of the defense Abraham Sanchez was superb as he dealt with wave after wave of Roseland attacks. Moises Segura battled and tackled extremely well in the midfield, and nobody covered more ground that Jose Gaxiola up front. Everyone gave a great effort but it was not enough as some of the slick passing game that has been a Panther trait this season was missing. The Panthers need to bring their A+ game to matches like this and, due mainly to the top quality performance by Roseland, they were unable to produce that. Roseland now head the standings by one win, but with A.V. having a game in-hand, these two could well finish the regular season in a tie if they each of them win their remaining games.

On a related topic, it should be stated that the three officials in this game were the best the team has seen this season. I said to the Panther bench players after just five minutes of the kick-off that they were going to be good. They were efficient, effective, and very fair — all as a result of their consistency, communication, and accurate play-calling. They had ‘a feel for the game’, concentrating on the important ‘stuff’, and whereas all too often players and some coaches look to apportion blame on the officials following a defeat, that was not the case here. They should be commended for a difficult job well done.

Inevitably, the Panther squad was somewhat despondent in the aftermath and not even a feast of double/double burgers and animal fries at In-and-Out Burger could erase those feelings. They had lost two of their last three matches and would require a positive collective effort to improve spirit and get back to winning ways.

Fortunately they have the chance to do just that this week as the season continues with two more league matches. Today, Wednesday, Oct 16, the team hosts Upper Lake at Tom Smith Field at 4.30pm before making the long trip to St Vincent’s in Petaluma on Friday afternoon (4.30) – a venue that has been a difficult place to play for AV in recent times, with the last two years both resulting in defeat. Hope to see you at least one of these. Come on you Panthers!

Current 2013 Record (won/lost/drawn):

League: 11-1-0. Overall: 14 – 2 – 0. Goals scored: 84. Goals conceded: 8.

Panther Soccer Schedule

Date Opponent         Venue

Wed 10/16 Lg Upper Lake Home

Fri 10/18 Lg St. Vincent’s Away

Wed 10/23 Lg Calistoga Home

Fri 10/25 Lg Point Arena Home 7.30pm**

Mon 10/28 Lg Geyserville Away

Wed 10/30N Middletown Home 4pm**

Lg – League Match / N – Non-League match / *Homecoming

Home games kick-off at 4.30pm unless stated **

Play-offs will begin in November


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