M-CHS soccer team concludes season with losses
Despite tough year, coach pleased with Panthers’ progress
Statistically speaking, the 2013 season was not a good one for the Montezuma-Cortez High School Panthers boys’ soccer team. It was outscored 86-15. It posted one win in 15 games. And yet, statistics only tell half the story.
The other half of the story is one of improvement, and at no time was that improvement more evident than Friday, Oct. 11, when the Panthers dropped a hard-fought contest to Grand Junction Central, 4-2.
Throughout the first half, things looked bleak for the Panthers as Central standout Matthew Miller diced through the Panthers defense almost at will.
Miller’s onslaught began in the game’s sixth minute, when he sprinted down the right side, easily outrunning Panthers’ defenseman Briston Walker, before collecting a pass from a teammate and firing a low shot into the left corner of the net.
The Central forward struck again in the game’s 22nd minute, burning numerous Panthers with nifty ball handling along the end line before firing a shot into the top of the net from a seemingly impossible angle.
Central moved ahead 3-0 in the game’s 35th minute after Miller again broke free in Panther territory, this time causing a sliding Walker to deflect the ball into the Panthers net.
In the 40th minute, Miller again found space, forcing the Panthers to foul in the box. After Miller subsequently converted the penalty kick, Central led 4-0 at the half.
“The first half, we had issues marking up, (Miller) especially,” said Panthers head coach Sean Fitzgerald. “The kid was quick. We had to put a man on him. Once we finally did that, they didn’t get any goals.”
Looking far better in the second half, the Panthers finally found some offense, scoring in the 52nd minute after Walker’s long front handspring throw found the foot of Taren Lanier, who chipped the ball over goalkeeper Lorenzo Archuleta-Robles to cut the Central lead to 4-1.
In the game’s 66th minute, the Panthers scored again, this time courtesy of a great hustle play by Manuel Martinez, who managed to deflect a kick from Archuleta Robles into the Central net to cut the deficit to 4-2.
“Martinez is like a little gnat out there,” said Fitzgerald, referring to the Panthers’ forward’s hustle. “He is a phenomenal player, and he’s only a freshman.”
Although the Panthers’ offense would not score for the remainder of the contest, Martinez couldn’t help but be pleased with his team’s effort in the second half.
“I think we played pretty good,” said Martinez. “Everybody, in the second half, started talking. We played to feet.”
Unable to continue their strong play against Fruita Monument on Saturday, Oct. 12, the Panthers concluded their season with a 9-0 loss.
“I keep saying that we need to make steps,” said Fitzgerald. “We keep making those steps forward, and it’s a good thing. We’ve made huge steps in improving the score and improving our play. We just need to build on that for next year.”
Just how many steps the Panthers make before next season depends on the team’s work in the offseason. But without a doubt, the 2013 season was one of progress for the team.