Panther Soccer 2013

by Steve Sparks, October 30, 2013

With Roseland Prep having clinched their fourth regular season title in succession, The Anderson Valley Panthers had their eyes on the runners-up spot prize as the final week of the season approached. In their way was Calistoga, with whom the Panthers have had a number of somewhat “heated exchanges” on a number of occasions in recent years. The two teams met last Wednesday in Boonville at Tom Smith Field.

These two teams were tied on points but AV has a game in-hand and had beaten the Wildcats in Calistoga 3-1 earlier in the season. Nevertheless, the Panthers were in the middle of a tough run that had seen them lose three of their previous five matches and this would be a severe test.

Sure enough, the game was a high tempo affair with no shortage of skill matched only by the intensity of some of the tackling. AV had the possession edge in the first half and a couple of half-chances to take the lead as several dangerous crosses were sent deep into the Wildcat penalty area. But the Calistoga defense held and the game remained scoreless at the break.

The second half was just two minutes old when a delivery from the halfway line into the center of the Calistoga backline was misjudged and Erik Martinez burst through on goal. He was closed down by the recovering defender on the edge of the area to the right of the goal but dribbled inside and from 15 yards out drove the ball inside the corner of the goal. 1-0 to AV with a lead they certainly deserved on the balance of play.

The Panthers had a number of chances to double their lead but were unable to do so as their finishing let them down, despite the extra shooting practice the day before. Calistoga had a few counter-attacks and from one of these a Wildcat forward was brought down in the penalty box and a penalty kick was given — no complaints on this occasion, it was a foul, although the Wildcat forward’s dramatic fall was worthy of an Oscar. From the spot-kick, ‘keeper Gerardo Torales got his hand to the ball but was unable to stop its progress into the net and it was 1-1.

Tackles continued to fly in and perhaps inevitably, given the history between these teams, tempers frayed. This ginally spilled over into a pushing match in midfield that featured several players from each side. The referee gave out yellow cards to one from each side but as Fernando Ferreyra was leaving the field (as yellow-carded players must do although they may return), he directed some verbal abuse in Spanish towards the Calistoga bench who were barraging him. The nearby linesman was Mexican and understood what was said and reported it to the referee who immediately gave Ferreyra a second yellow and he was therefore ejected from the remainder of the match. Unfortunately this was Ferreyra’s second red of the season and the talented young sophomore will miss the remainder of the matches, including the play-offs. Needless to say he was very upset and the team will miss his significant footballing contribution.

The game finished a few minutes later without any change to the score. However, given their recent woes, the Panthers’ performance was a very encouraging response and had this been a boxing match the Panthers would have handily won on points. Meanwhile, the draw meant that if AV were to win their remaining two matches they would finish as runners-up and receive a high seeding for the post season.

The first of these final two matches was part of this past week’s Homecoming activities at the school and was played Friday night under the lights at The Fairgrounds against Point Arena. The Pirates always play hard and this game was no exception. However, AV simply has better players and on Friday night in front of family and friends they were not going to be denied.

Following the presentation of the Homecoming King and Queen, the former being won by Panther defender Danny Espinoza, and the huge raffle prize of over $4,000 going to another AV starter, Abraham Sanchez, the winning ways continued on the pitch. After dominating possession in the early stages, the first goal came in the 15th minute when Jose Gaxiola drove a low shot in off the post following good work by Moises Segura on the right flank. The Pirate defense was stretched time after time and their overworked ‘keeper pulled off a number of fine saves before more goals arrived from Chirro Tovar, Pancho Lievanos, and Erik Martinez. It was 4-0 at the half and the second half saw the whole Panther bench in action.

One further goal was added as AV’s reserves, who train hard at every practice giving the team important depth but without getting the “glory” of that many minutes in most of the matches, gave a good account of themselves in front of their many supporters. It finished 5-0 and now a win against Geyserville would be enough to secure that runner-up spot and a high post season seeding.

The team made the hour-long journey to Geyserville on Monday afternoon for their final game of the regular season against a team fighting to avoid relegation to the lower division after a disappointing 2013 campaign — the Broncos needed to get a win from either of their two remaining matches, against AV and Rincon Valley, to avoid the drop.

The match was a messy affair with very little fluency, due in part to the inability of AV to play with the level of intensity needed for all matches and the niggling fouls committed by two or three of the Geyserville players throughout the match that interrupted any rhythm that AV may have generated. It is a way certain teams decide to play in order to combat this gifted Panthers team and it is a valid tactic. How AV deals with such methods is something they are still learning. Nevertheless, the Panthers scored two fine goals, both from Chirro Tovar with assists by Fabian Sanchez and Abraham Sanchez. They were worthy winners as AV clinched the runner-up spot in the league standings.

The post-season seedings will come out on Sunday and the play-offs begin next Wednesday, November 6. It may be assumed that AV will get a high seeding, probably #1 or #2, and that may mean a first round bye, and certainly a home game in their first match. Stay tuned, check out flyers in the local stores, and think seriously about coming out and supporting the school’s soccer lads as they go for their third post-season Championship in four years. Hope to see you out there. Come on you Panthers!

Final 2013 Regular Season Record (won/lost/drawn):

League: 14-2-1. Overall: 17-3-1

Goals scored: 97 / Goals conceded: 12 ¥¥

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