Last Wednesday, the team played the first of four crucial match-ups against one of the two perennial rials for the league title. Roseland Prep were the visitors on this occasion and it appears that, for the eighth year in succession, the title will be three-horse race between ourselves, Roseland, and Calistoga.
The game began at a frantic pace with AV dominating the early exchanges. It was therefore against the run of play in the 9th minute when the visiting Knights took the lead. A speculative shot from 25 yards bounced down off the Panther crossbar and, in the opinion of the assistant referee, over the line before being cleared by an AV defender. A goal was given and one would like to think that the assistant was 100% sure on his important decision.
However, just two minutes later, the Panthers were back on level terms when Chirro Tovar beat three defenders on a dazzling run before slotting the ball past the outstretched arms of the Roseland “keeper. A wonderful solo effort and AV had made the perfect response to going behind. In fact they should have taken the lead a minute later when David Eligio followed up on a Tovar shot that was partially parried by the “keeper. Unfortunately for the many AV fans in attendance, the goalie recovered sufficiently to block Eligio’s follow-up effort and it remained 1-1.
Just seven minutes later, 20 minutes into the half, Tovar again went past a couple of defenders only to be brought crashing to the ground by the third, resulting in a penalty kick. After a long delay while the referee marked the spot for the kick and generally messed about, the kick was taken by Tovar. It was a poor effort and easily saved by the goalkeeper. Sometimes, at all levels of the game, excellent goal-scorers come up short when it comes to taking penalty kicks, although Tovar has scored most of those he has taken over the past couple of seasons. The Panthers should have been a couple of goals ahead but it remained 1-1.
From then on, the Panthers just could not regain their earlier rhythm and Roseland were quicker to the ball, maintained possession far more effectively, and battled harder. They went ahead in the final moment of the half and continued to be the better team in the second half, scoring two more goals in the process. The Panthers were poor with their first touch and passing, although they did finish well and could have pulled a goal or two back, but in the end the 4-1 defeat was only slightly flattering to the visitors. It was a major letdown for everyone. The players were very aware of their poor effort and the next day the team held a players only meeting and hopefully it would have some effect moving forward.
It certainly did two days later when the team traveled to Upper Lake and absolutely trounced the hapless Cougars 12-1. It was 11-0 at the half and the entire second half was played by the ten players who started on the Panther bench, plus Tovar in goal. It was no real test but certainly picked up the spirits of the players after the major disappoint of the previous match.
Moving on. Today, Wednesday, September 14th, the team travels to Calistoga for another one of those “Big Matches.” Then they will be home at 4.30pm on Friday for the Apple Cup match against Geyserville, before embarking on a very tough travel week of away games at Cloverdale (Monday), Tomales (Wednesday), and Laytonville (Friday).
Record-to-Date: League (W/L/D) 1-1-0; Overall (W/L/D) 5-2-0