For the second time this season, West Liberty High School’s boys soccer team went to the wire with bigger schools only to lose by a single goal in overtime.
After getting beat 5-4 in penalty kicks at Muscatine, a Class 3A team, in overtime in the season opener, the Comets lost another heartbreaker Tuesday, April 13, falling to visiting rival Davenport Assumption, this time in sudden death overtime, 3-2.
After 80 minutes of regular play that ended in a 2-2 tie, the two teams battled through two 10-minute overtime periods before it came down to a battle to see who could connect on the most penalty kicks, again ending in a tie after Jahsiah Galvan pulled through with a clutch final kick to knot the penalty kick points at four.
But it was the Knight’s goal keeper that proved to be the star of the night, holding off the next two Comet players from scoring after neither team scored on the first attempts before Assumption connected on their second shot, leaving the hometown team stunned in what coach Waldon Ponce termed an upset.
The coach said his team outplayed Assumption on the night, scored enough goals to win, but was not pleased with the way the Knights got their two goals in regulation. “It comes down to little lapses on concentration and details that allowed our opponents to be in the game.”
Assumption scored their first goal in the first half after Juan Mateo put the hosts up 1-0 in the opening 10 minutes of play. “They had a long kick on a set piece deep in their own half. Our center back misjudged the ball in the air and allowed their forward to have an easy tap in goal,” Ponce said. “The other score from them was an unfortunate bounce that hit my defenders hand off his leg and gave them a PK (penalty kick).”
He said if those two things hadn’t happened, “we win this game way more comfortably. Again, (those are) little details that we will work on cleaning up as we continue our season.”
Ponce called the game a ”learning experience” and called it the “best game of the season in terms of having possession of the ball.” The coach said his Comets were “very aggressive defensively in winning the ball back,” attacking the opponent’s half of the field for the majority of the game.
“After review of the film, I was able to verify that even more,” he said, noting two mistakes allowed Assumption to compete with his Comets.
He said Assumption played smart soccer, keeping their back line and midfielders together, forcing West Liberty to be patient in their attack.
“Against a good team, scoring two goals should have been enough though, based on how we played that game. I definitely don’t leave the game feeling bad for scoring only two goals – it was more how they scored their two.”
Assumption coach Greg Zeller called the game a “nail biter” and complimented the Comets in pointing out the team should be able to play with anyone, noting the team “just kept coming” after his Knights offensively, this reporter pointing out it seemed as if West Liberty kept the ball on one side of the field most of the night. “you noticed that too,” he said, relieved to walk away with a the team’s third win of the young season in five outings.
Ponce said he knew Assumption would defend well. “With all due respect, I definitely felt confident in our group, though, and it’s definitely a win that escaped from our hands.”
It was Juan Mateo’s second goal, after Assumption took a 2-1 lead, that tied the game coming at just under 14 minutes and the Comets didn’t let up offensively the rest of the distance, missing shot after shot including a bullet at just under nine minutes in the first 10-minute overtime period. “I don’t recall the player, but we had a couple shots in the overtime,” the Comet coach said. “Their goalie (senior Matt Tallman) was pretty good.”
The coach said it was the first time the team was forced to go into sudden death overtime, utilizing a second set of five shooters that he said, “had not been in that situation before.”
He said the team constantly practices penalty kicks for game situations like that but said it’s impossible to “simulate the pressure” a kicker would have in a game. He said after sophomore goal keeper Ruben Meraz stopped Assumptions opening sudden-death kick, he had hopes his team could capitalize, but Tallman pulled through with two straight stops.
Ponce said Meraz’s goal keeping was spectacular in the penalty kick shootout.
“He was the reason why we had an opportunity to win the shootout and we didn’t take advantage of his save in the sudden death phase of the shootout.”
The coach complimented his team in creating a “good collective effort,” pointing out the play of Diego Hernandez, noting he did a “great job in starting our attack and defending the middle third.” He said Hernandez is often overlooked in his defensive midfielder role.
The coach also complimented the pair of goals by Mateo, one coming off an assist from Galvan. He called Mateo a “dangerous player in our attack at all times.
Making points on penalty kicks for the Comets were Adraian Frausto, Ronald Guzman, Juan Mateo and Galvan.