Panther Soccer 2013

by Coach Steve Sparks, September 10, 2013

The 2013 AV High School Boys’ soccer season continued with three matches over a six-day period last week as the team faced Sonoma Academy, Potter Valley, and Cloverdale.

The first of these, a home league match against the Coyotes from Santa Rosa, is always half-jokingly referred to around here as the “sons of grape-pickers” versus the “sons of wine-sippers,” given the socio-economic differences between the families of the competing players. Putting your son through Sonoma Academy costs over $30K a year, not quite the same as having a son at AV.

The match was a one-sided affair with AV dominating, and while they did not score many goals, some of the play was outstanding, particularly the flowing passing movements and excellent work rate to recover the ball when possession was lost. The first goal came in the 27th minute following some fine interplay between Erik Martinez and Jose Gaxiola that led to a pass to Chirro Tovar who finished the move competently with a fine low shot into the net from six yards out. AV 1-0.

The Panthers were in complete control but were unable to add to their lead. With the match 15 minutes from its conclusion there was still a little doubt on the Panther sideline as the Coyotes hung on and no doubt felt they might sneak an equalizer. Then in the 68th minute, the win was clinched when from a fine defense-splitting pass from Moises Segura, Jose Gaxiola finished with a well- placed shot into the corner of the goal past the advancing ’keeper. A third and final goal was scored in the final minutes when Tovar scored his second after good set-up play by Lalo Alvarez and Erik Martinez. It finished 3-0 to AV and it was on to Potter Valley on Friday night for the season’s first road game.

The Bearcats are a new team to the league and what they may lack in experience they more than made up for with effort and team spirit. Despite being under continual pressure throughout the first half, the ’Cats denied AV with some heroic defending, particularly by their goalkeeper, helped by the goalposts and crossbar on three occasions. Finally in the 30th minute, Christian Guerrero was brought down in the Bearcat penalty area and AV opened the scoring from the ensuing twice-taken penalty kick after the goalkeeper was deemed to have moved too early on Erik Martinez’s initial shot. Jose Gaxiola took the second one and he made no mistake. The “floodgates” might have expected to open at that point but it was an underperforming Panther team on what was a very hot afternoon and at the break it was still only 1-0 AV.

Following a mildly berating half-time team talk by the coaches, the AV starting line-up was sent out to redeem themselves to begin the second period. They certainly did that. Seven goals were added in an extremely one-sided second half as the starters and all six bench players contributed to a much-improved effort. Goals from Chirro Tovar (the freshman getting his first high school hat-trick), a second for Jose Gaxiola, Erik Martinez, and powerful blasts from Christian Guerrero and Gualberto Gastelum, along with the team’s first goal conceded this season, saw a final score line of 8-1 to AV and a record of four wins out of four to start the season.

The journey back to the Valley was broken up with the traditional stop for dinner at Super Taco in Ukiah, a visit that coincided with the Mexico v Honduras World Cup qualifying match being shown live on the restaurant’s television screen. Unfortunately, the Mexican national team has not yet called up Isidro “Chirro” Tovar and they went down in a surprising 1-2 defeat.

Next up was Monday afternoon’s annual non-league battle with “near”-neighbors, Cloverdale, for the Highway 128 Trophy. It was AV’s turn to host and the Valley was still sweltering in temperatures just over 100°F, even at the kick-off time of 4.30pm.

With two starters missing through injury and sickness, AV was forced to make changes in their starting line-up for the first time this season although many of the bench players are more than capable of stepping up. On this occasion it was Moises Segura and Fabian Sanchez who did so very effectively. In fact the whole team played well throughout the match and as the goals poured in every squad member got some playing time.

Cloverdale was not the team they have been over the years and while the Panthers took 15 minutes to open the scoring they soon made up for lost time. By the half it was 4-0 with goals from Jose Gaxiola (2), Erik Martinez, and Moises Segura and the second half saw five more, two from Martinez, one for Chirro Tovar, a first high school goal for freshman Dario Gonzales, and one for senior Pancho Lievanos, making his return to the side after missing all the games so far due to a broken bone in his foot.

So it finished a lopsided 9-0 to AV with a disappointed Cloverdale coach very effusive in his praise for the Panthers after the match. The AV coaches are very pleased with the team’s progress so far but it must be acknowledged that while there have been some excellent periods of play in each match, the opposition has not been the strongest and the real tests are still to come.

Today, Wednesday, Sept 11, the Panthers take their 5-0 record on the road to Geyserville to play an important league game before their long-anticipated appearance at The County Fair Apple Cup in Boonville on Friday, September 13, kicking off at 5pm at the Fairgrounds against Tech High School from Rohnert Park. With luck all 23 members of the AV squad will get to play in front of many supporting locals and soccer fans.

The team will face two big tests next week at home, kicking off at 4.30pm. The first is against current three-time regular season champions, Roseland Prep from Santa Rosa on Wednesday, Sept 18. Then another top team, St. Vincent’s of Petaluma, on Friday Sept 20. As always your support at our matches is much appreciated by the lads and certainly spurs them on. We play exciting football and, as I’ve often said, a good home crowd is probably worth a goal a game! Hope to see you there. Come on you Panthers! ¥¥

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