Following the crucial loss at Roseland Prep last week, the Panthers were faced with two more league games this week as they attempted to get back to winning ways.
First up, here in Boonville, they faced Upper Lake last Wednesday afternoon in what was always going to be a fairly routine victory against the over-matched Cougars. These matches can be difficult sometimes but this one was not as AV ran our comfortable 5-1 winners and each of the bench players received significant playing time.
Next up was yet another long road-trip on a Friday afternoon/evening as the school vans left the high school at 1.45pm, not return until 9.15. The opponents were St. Vincent of Petaluma, a team that the Panthers had dominated in the meeting last month in Anderson Valley, one that had finished just 1-0 to AV, but the visitors were outplayed and had managed just one shot throughout the game. However, the Mustangs are always a different proposition on their all-weather pitch surface, where they have a distinct home field advantage over all visitors and had beaten the Panthers in each of the previous two seasons at that venue.
AV were very prepared for this, or so it seemed, but in just the third minute of the match, a ball was played over the Panther backline into an area between goalkeeper Gerardo Torales and sweeper Efrain Gonzales. With the Mustang forward bearing down on Gonzales, neither Panther player took command of the situation and at the last moment Gonzales passed the ball back towards Torales. However, the ‘keeper had moved to his left a little too far and the ball was passed too far to his right and rolled into the empty net to the unexpected joy of the home players and fans. It was 0-1 to St. Vincent.
The Panthers continued to have difficulties adapting to the fast surface for most of the half but as the break approached they were gradually getting on top, their biggest problem being the bickering between certain players, borne out of their undoubted frustration at the goal and their inability to break down a disciplined Mustang defense.
The second half saw AV finally getting into their rhythm and a few chances came their way but they were repeatedly denied by a battling St. Vincent team who sensed a famous victory. A couple of frantic episodes in the Mustang goalmouth and a one-on-one situation between the Panther’s top goalscorer, Jose Gaxiola, and the opposition ‘keeper, that saw a fine block by the goalie, were as close as AV would get. To add to their woes, in the 60th minute there was a shoulder to shoulder clash in the Panther penalty box between Gonzales and the St. Vincent striker that was not a foul and neither side appealed for one. However, with both players falling to the ground, the referee decided to make a call when one was not necessary. Unfortunately for AV he gave a penalty against them and moments later it was 0-2 to the Mustangs. It was not unlike the farcical decision earlier in the month against Fort Bragg when another highly controversial penalty kick had been awarded against AV, but nothing could be done about it. Hopefully, these calls are balanced out over the season, but time is getting short!
The game ended in defeat and the commiserations of the St. Vincent coach, followed by his comment that AV was the better team overall and that the penalty was a bad call, were appreciated but of little solace to the Panther players and coaching staff.
Despite a temporary raising of the spirits following a hearty meal at In-and-Out Burger in Santa Rosa on the journey back to the Valley, the mood was dampened once more when news filtered through that Roseland Prep had tied at Calistoga and were thus almost assured of the regular season title for the fourth year in succession. Even if AV were to win their remaining three league matches, they would still be a point behind Roseland in the standings if the Knights beat lowly Geyserville in their final match tonight (October 23) — a virtual certainty.
However, there was still the runner-up spot to play for and now Calistoga was just one win behind AV. The two sides meet tonight, October 23, at Tom Smith Field in Boonville at 4.30pm, in a match that will decide Second place. Then on Friday, October 25, it is Homecoming, when the Panthers will meet Point Arena in a 7.30pm kick-off under the lights at The Fairgrounds following the “football” game.
These two matches should be exciting occasions and the players would no doubt greatly appreciate your attendance and support as their season reaches its climax and play-offs approach in November. Hope to see you there. Come on you Panthers!
Current 2013 Record (won/lost/drawn):
League: 12-2-0. Overall: 15-3-0.
Goals scored: 89. Goals conceded: 11.