LATHROP – Apparently Lathrop’s last loss against East Union woke the Spartans up.
Since that 2-0 Sept. 24 loss, Lathrop has gone 3-1-3 against Valley Oak League competition including a 2-1 victory over previously unbeaten Oakdale earlier this week.
Lathrop (3-4-3 VOL, 9-7-3 overall) continued to ride this sudden wave of momentum Thursday at Bennie Gatto Field with a 1-0 victory over East Union (3-7, 3-11-2).
Lathrop captain Ulysses Almahza assisted on the game’s only goal in the 42nd minute, which was headed in by junior Daniel Lizcano in front of traffic in front of the net.
“Coach told us at halftime we need to step it up,” Almahza said. “We got the momentum from our last few games -- tying Sierra and then beating Oakdale -- and we had to get this win.
“I got the ball, the goalie (Abel Lopez) deflected it and (Lizcano) put his head on it. It was our goal to beat East Union since last season and it felt good beating these guys. We didn’t play a good game, but we played good enough to win.”
Lathrop’s senior goalie Eric De Leon was a difference-maker as well, finishing with 12 saves.
“He’s been pretty steady,” Lathrop head coach Lenny Lial said. “He’s a senior and he should be playing up right now. The seniors needed to step it up. This is their season. The juniors will be back next year.”
East Union and Lathrop attempted six shots on goal apiece. The Spartans’ opportunities, however, were a bit more legitimate.
Despite the Spartans not getting its first shot on goal until the 30th minute, a laser by Estevan Lopez, they came out charged up in the second half.
A scoring opportunity at the end of the first half arguably led to that outburst to start the final 40 half.
Lopez dropped a back pass for Felipe Gomez, who took advantage of the best scoring opportunity of the first half in minute No. 39. Gomez’s shot was wide to the right, but the play was well executed.
Lathrop came out firing in the second half and attempted three of their six total shots on goal in the first two minutes. One of those was Lizcano’s eventual game-winner that made it by Abel. Lopez (three saves).
“I thought we did a good job,” Lial said. “In the first half we weren’t turning our possessions into scoring chances. In the second half we needed to be a little bit more aggressive. We needed to keep control and not give them enough room to operate. Once we locked on them a little bit better, they didn’t have as much room to roam.
“We manufactured some good chances and kept them from having good chances. I liked the set up, especially at the end of the first half, I liked that creativity.”
Lathrop’s next game is scheduled for Tuesday at Weston Ranch.
East Union has lost six of its last seven and will resume play on Tuesday on the road against one of the VOL’s top squads in Oakdale.
“We don’t have a chance (at the playoffs), but we’re still playing and we’re still going to fight,” East Union head coach Victor Polanco said. “We still created opportunities, but thing is we didn’t finish it.
“We’re having a bad season, but we’re still not going to give up. We’ll go back to practice (today) and get ready for (Oakdale). (Lathrop) played pretty good and dominated for a while, but we did, too. I think it was a good game.”
East Union 10,
East Union improved to 9-0-1 in the VOL and were led by Peyton Harding’s hat trick.
Lino Cerda and Arturo Galvan scored two goals apiece. Marco Gonzalez, Goivanni Reriales and Hime Suarez rounded out the total.