The Sierra and Weston Ranch boys soccer teams have had some epic duels over the years, and Tuesday’s Valley Oak League tussle was no different.
It was a beautiful mess packed with swirling winds, relentless rain and a swampy field at Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium, but even under the conditions both sides displayed impressive skill and determination. The two-time defending VOL champion Cougars held two leads, but Eddie Aguilar led a second-half charge that resulted in a hard-earned 5-4 victory for Sierra.
Aguilar scored tying and go-ahead goals on headers, then assisted Kevin Mendiola’s game-winning volley in the 72nd minute.
“Nothing is worse when it’s windy and rainy at the same time, but there is definitely intensity with these teams,” Aguilar said. “We both wanted to win so bad.”
Weston Ranch (0-1-2 VOL, 2-5-5 overall) has reason to believe it let one slip away. The Cougars scored in the opening minutes of each half to take one-goal leads, and in the final 40 minutes they had a big advantage with the tailwind. Mario Martinez netted both of Weston Ranch’s first-half goals, while Bryant Ortiz scored twice in the second.
“We can compete against any team and we’re a very young team,” said Weston Ranch coach Francisco Cisneros, adding that he only has two starting seniors. “This has been the story of our season so far. I thought we played well, we just need to learn how to close it out and finish a game.”
Athen Gonsalves got Sierra on board in the 13th minute when his bending corner-kick cross was deflected in by Weston Ranch freshman goalie Francisco Vega (four saves).
The Timberwolves (3-0, 9-4-1) then took their first lead five minutes later. David Lopez was presented with a clear shot after Aguilar deftly deflected a long ball from defender Tarje Hage.
Weston Ranch had a chance to tie in the closing minutes of the half, with Roberto Gonzalez’s penalty kick, but Sierra keeper Saul Aguiniga came up with one of his seven saves. Moments later, Martinez converted following a free kick for the equalizer that had just evaded the Cougars.
Despite giving up four goals, Aguiniga did well to limit them to just that with several breakaway stops in the second half.
“If I had to select a player of the game Saul was the guy,” Sierra coach Joe Pires said. “He just kept us in the game.”
Weston Ranch jumped ahead for the final time just two minutes into the second half, as Martinez followed up on Gonzalez’s initial miss off the crossbar. Sierra answered in the 56th minute when Mendiola hustled to keep the ball in play near the left corner, juked pass multiple defenders and lofted a cross for Aguilar’s first scoring head shot.
“That definitely helped get back us into the game,” Aguilar said.
He struck again just two minutes later, this time with Alex Mata delivering the high-arcing cross. The pesky Cougars did not go away quietly, responding with yet another tying goal in the 67th minute. Ortiz cashed in after three previous shots on the same sequence missed their mark, and two of them were deflections from Aguiniga.
All things considered, Pires and the Timberwolves were ecstatic to get the win. Several players were unavailable, either to sickness or vacation trips from the holiday break. And for a team that stresses ball control and crisp passing, the weather conditions did it little favors.
“With everything going on and us being behind a couple of times, this really showed how much grit this team has,” Pires said. “Weston Ranch might be young but they can play and they’re a very well-coached team. They don’t give up easily.”
Kimball 5, Lathrop 2
It didn’t take long for the visiting Jaguars (1-1-1, 3-4-1) to take control, as they scored twoce in the opening minutes and carried a 3-0 lead into halftime.
Christian Cardenas and Luis Angel Vargas each scored for Lathrop (0-2-1, 4-5-2).
“We came out flat and did not play our style,” Lathrop coach Alfredo Reynaga said. “They scored two goals in the first five to six minutes and that completely decapitated us.”
Kimball 5, Lathrop 3
Jose Luis Herrera netted a pair of goals for the Spartans, and Adrian Solis added one more off an assist from Cris Almanza.