With two games to go, AV remained in second place, just one point behind leaders Roseland Prep, who, given their opposition, would almost certainly finish with two wins to clinch their fifth regular season title in a row, with the Panthers finishing runners-up in three of those years. Despite the seeming inevitability of this, AV still needed to finish strongly to present a convincing case for the #1 seeding in the postseason small school Championships.
Calistoga came to the Valley last Wednesday (October 29) for what is always a tight game. Although not at their traditional best, the Wildcats were still in fourth place and would provide tough opposition.
AV played well in the early stages with good intensity. The ball was passed around quickly and accurately as they pinned the Wildcats in their own half. In the 18th minute, the Panthers got a deserved boost when freshman substitute Jorge ‘Papa’ Medina, on for an injured player, saw his shot from 15 yards out saved by the ’keeper only for the alert David Eligio to follow-up on the rebound to drive the ball into the net before any defenders could react. 1-0 to AV.
The Panthers continued to play well, although Calistoga had a couple of chances of their own from which they could have tied it up. However, just five minutes before half-time, the same two players combined to give AV a 2-0 lead. This followed a free-kick into the crowded goal, when a shot by Medina was blocked by the ’keeper and again Eligio was on hand to blast the ball into the roof of the net from seven yards out.
AV had two or three chances to put the game beyond doubt in the early stages of the second half yet failed to do so and Calistoga gradually got back into the game. In the 61st minute the Wildcats pulled to a goal back when poor defense allowed a header by a Wildcat forward to go unchallenged from six yards out. It was 2-1 and the Wildcats were back in it. There were more worrying moments over the next several minutes but then, in the 72nd minute, ‘Papa’ came in again for the yellow-carded Ferreyra. He fed the ball to Eligio just outside the Calistoga 18-yard box, who spotted the unmarked sophomore Chirro Tovar running in on goal. Tovar received Eligio’s pass and calmly slotted the ball into the corner of the net for the third Panther goal and his own 27th of the season, the program’s 4th best all-time single-season total. The match finished 3-1, as AV briefly occupied the top spot in the standings until Roseland beat Rincon Valley later in the evening to regain their one point lead with one game to play.
The next afternoon Point Arena came to town for the final game of the regular season. The Pirates have had a tough year to say the least and arrived with just ten players. After scoring four goals in the first 15 minutes with the starting line-up, the entire 8-man Panther bench entered the game and played for the remainder of the half and throughout the second half. It was an excellent workout for a number of younger players who and they did themselves proud with fine performances all round. It finished 11-0 with goals from David Eligio (2), Moises Segura (2), Ullises Garcia (2), Gerardo Torales, Chirro Tovar, Carlos Garibay, Papa Medina, and Dario Gonzales grabbing his first of the season.
Roseland hammered bottom team Tech in their final match to clinch the regular season title by one point with AV as runners-up for the second successive season, with a record of 17-2-1. The two losses were obviously crucial, just a draw in either of them would have given AV the title on the head-to-head tie-break with Roseland. At the risk of repeating myself these two matches were both very winnable. Frustrating to say the least, but losing when you should have won is an aspect of all sports, at all levels. Hopefully not one that will be a part of the Panthers upcoming postseason. The seeding committee met on Sunday, November 2 to decide the play-off teams and their rankings. It was hoped that with Roseland Prep in the big school play-offs, AV would get the #1 seed for the small schools as a result of their excellent overall record despite a difficult schedule when compared to others in this bracket. Fortunately, unlike two seasons ago when logic did not prevail, the committee saw sense and, may I immodestly add, must have read my reasons for giving us the #1 and that’s what we got! So AV has a first round bye on Wednesday. On Saturday, November 8, at Tom Smith Field in Boonville, kicking-off at 2pm, we face the winner of the Fremont Christian against Pt. Arena game. Then, assuming a win, on to a semi-final, also at home, on Wednesday, November 12 in the early afternoon.
As always your support at the matches is much appreciated. We play exciting football and, as I’ve often said, vociferous home crowd support is probably worth a goal a game! Hope to see you there. Come on you Panthers!
(Record— League (W/L/D): 13-2-1; Overall 17-2-1
Standings— 1. Roseland Prep: 13-1-2; 2. Anderson Valley 13-2-1; 3. St. Vincent’s 11-4-1; 4. Calistoga 8-4-4.)