Last Wednesday (10/21) the Point Arena Pirates were visitors to the Valley and AV hoped to make up for their poor performance on the coast a couple of weeks ago — a game the Panthers won 4-0 but in which they played well below par. Sure enough, after a slow start, the superior skills and teamwork of the Panther team began to tell and they ran out convincing winners 8-0. Goals came from Sergio Gutierrez with 5, extending his school record to 48 on the season, with Elio Gonzales nabbing 2 (plus assists on 3 of Sergio’s goals), and Hector Cruz cashing in with 1.
On Friday (10/23) the first of two games in a week against perennial rivals Mendocino took place here in Boonville and it turned out to be one of the poorest games of the season. AV played two different line-ups, mixing starters with bench players, but unlike against Geyserville a couple of weeks earlier this did not work and the result was a game with little flow and even less quality, although the Panthers did win 6-1. Gutierrez scored four more goals to push his season total to 52, and Rigo Guerrero and Elio Gonzales added the other two.
Closing out a hectic week of soccer was the huge Monday afternoon (10/26) game against a tough Roseland Prep team whom the Panthers had narrowly beaten 2-1 down in Santa Rosa a month or so ago. With the final game of the regular season being the return match against Mendocino on the coast this Friday (10/30), this Roseland game was the only remaining hurdle that could realistically prevent the Panthers from attaining a never before achieved Perfect Season.
In all sports, the battles between evenly matched teams are often decided by one or more of the following incidents — a sublime piece of skill, an unforced yet critical error, and a slice of whatever Lady Luck is serving up — a ‘Rule of Sports’ you might say. The Panther/Knights match-up certainly added credibility to this piece of sporting philosophy with all three playing their part on Monday afternoon. In the eight games played between the sides over the previous four years, AV had won seven and there had been one tie. The Panther wins had almost all been by a one-goal margin and in virtually every game one of the three factors mentioned above had played a significant role. Anyone with Roseland connections would certainly say Lady Luck had worn Panther black and gold on more than one occasion, although ‘sublime skill’ would be a Panther’s explanation. Either way, the Knights were perhaps due for a few things to go in their favor.
A fascinating first half saw the Panthers generally on top but Roseland were dangerous on the counter. Twice the Knights’ ’keeper pulled off fine saves but at the other end Pepe Virramontez headed a shot off his own line with Christian Mendoza in the Panther goal well beaten. In the 20th minute, the Panthers took a deserved lead when for the umpteenth time this season Omar Ferreyra set up Sergio Gutierrez to drive the ball low into the far corner of the opponent’s goal. On the stroke of halftime they thought they had made it 2-0 when Omar blasted the ball into the net from close range only for a controversial offside decision to go against him. It was 1-0 to AV at the break, but should it have been 2?
The first minute of the second half saw that piece of ‘sublime skill’ when from fully 30 yards from goal a Roseland striker let fly with a shot that flew into the top corner of the Panther net to make it 1-1 but a few minutes later AV had regained the lead when once again the Omar to Sergio combo saw Gutierrez crash the ball into the goal from fifteen yards out. The lead was short-lived, however, when Lady Luck came to the Knights’ rescue as an attempted pass across the Panther goal turned fortuitously into a looping shot into the far corner of the net. It was 2-2.
In the 65th minute a pass across the Panther goal was misread (the critical error) by two AV defenders who each over-committed to the ball allowing a Knight forward to go by them both before slipping the ball past the defenseless Mendoza in the AV goal. Roseland was ahead 3-2. Despite several half-chances over the next 15 minutes for the Panthers the Knights scored again with a penalty kick following a poor tackle and foul by an AV defender. AV had lost 2-4 in a very well-played, close game that they could have won but which they ultimately lost to a fine team and, I would suggest, to a ‘Rule of Sports.’
The Panthers dreams of the ‘Perfect Season’ were smashed and the loss was very hard to take after a magnificent run of 17 wins in succession. They would have to pick themselves up and go out and hammer rivals Mendocino on Friday and then look forward positively to the play-offs. These will begin with a home game in Boonville at The Fairgrounds next Wednesday (11/4) at 7pm against a team to be announced. Your support would be much appreciated by the players and if it is anything like previous years the chants from the fans in the stands might even be worth a goal or two for the hometown boys.
Record (Won/Lost/Drawn): League 5-0-0; Overall 17-1-0