If the season opener is a sign of things to come for the West Liberty High School boys’ soccer team, the Comets may be in for a great season.
Although losing 2-1, the Comets of coach Walton Ponce gave the higher class hosting Muskies all they wanted Thursday on a chilly night at the Muscatine Soccer Complex. Muscatine capitalizing on converting all five of their penalty kicks in the overtime while holding West Liberty to one less.
It was the first time in two years either team had taken the field because of COVID-19 cancelling last year’s season, but the teams were in true defensive form, playing to a scoreless tie in the first half despite several kicks that sailed over or missed the goal before a chilled crowd in winter jackets on the 40-50 degree night.
It was a quick score after halftime that put Muscatine ahead. With just more than a minute gone in the half, junior Grant Bode found an opening and took advantage of a Miles Melendez pass to score the opening goal of the season.
That lead held as the Muskies would keep speedy Jahsiah Galvan surrounded through most of the evening but Galvan was taken down in the box by a Muscatine defender and West Liberty was awarded a penalty kick, converted by junior Adrian Frausto to score the opening goal of the season for the Comets with about nine minutes remaining.
With the game forced into overtime penalty kicks, West Liberty’s only miss was a second attempt line-drive rocket that hit the upper crossbar off the foot of Galvan, who had the Muskie goal keeper baffled. Muscatine talent Bode put in the winning boot on the final penalty kick in overtime to give Muscatine the win.
Making their penalty kicks for the Comets were Juan Mateo, Adrian Frausto, Joshua Mateo and Ronald Guzman.
Walton Ponce said he anticipated the outing with Muscatine would be an even match-up. "Most of these boys have played together at Pearl City Soccer Club where I am the Director of Coaching and they know each other very well. We definitely expected and wanted to come out of there with a win but we didn’t unfortunately."
He said Galvan was a targeted Comet. "They had to really focus their defensive efforts on Jahsiah due to his strength and athleticism. The focus on him opened up other players to have chances. Our offensive players still created many chances throughout the match. I felt like we had a handful of clear opportunities that we just weren’t able to capitalize on."
From a soccer perspective, there are multiple things the coach said the team needed to "iron out, which I know we will as the season goes on."
"But I cannot bash the boys on the effort and character they played with that day. I feel like the game had an overall feeling that we were going to come away with the win, which is promising for this group facing a 3A school on the road for the first game of the season."
"Defensively, the goal we allowed is a mistake for sure, but we definitely limited them to shots from outside of the box, which is good, and I know we will take the best from the game and grow from it."
Ponce said the team was down after the game. "I think more because we knew it was a game that we were so very close to taking," he said, noting Muscatine beat Iowa City High Saturday. He said it came down to execution as his team had opportunities. He credited a strong back line for keeping Muscatine's offense at bay.
The coach said the game proved his team could play with anyone if they play at their "peak level." He complimented the play of Bryan Martinez, who made a switch from goalie to center back, calling his play "stellar," as well as Israel Gomez at left back. He also complimented the reserve play of Adrain Frausto and the play of Galvan, who he said "really worked hard."
Top Prince of Peace 11-4
The boys hosted their first game of the year on Monday against Clinton Prince of Peace, winning 11-4.
The Comets rolled to a 4-1 halftime lead behind some great defense and offense, Galvan getting the opening score off an assist from Israel Gomez with 27:30 left in the first half before scoring again at 20:30.
Galvan got his third goal of the night near the eight minute mark thanks to a great pass from Adrian Frausto before Prince of Peace came back to score with about two minutes left to cut the margin to 3-1. Sophomore Juan Mateo capped the half with a goal off an assist from Galvan at 1:30.
Prince of Peace made a game of it by capitalizing on a penalty kick early in the second half to cut the margin to 4-2 then added another point via a penalty kick at 26:30 to cut the gap to one, 4-3.
Galvan, the junior speedster, answered quickly with his fourth goal of the night a minute later and junior Adrian Frausto added another at 22:22 in the second half to give the Comets a 6-3 lead. About a minute later, Galvan put in his fifth goal of the night and then assisted on a goal by senior Josh Mateo to give the Comets an 8-3 lead at the 14:30 mark.
West Liberty added two more goals before the 12 minute mark as Galvan shot a cross pass to senior Julian Alvarado before freshman Pascual Pedro Pedro connected to give the Comets a commanding 10-3 lead.
David Molina polished off the offensive show for the Comets with another goal at 5:30 to play before the visitors scored with just 45 seconds left in the game to create the final score of 11-4.
The team hosts Cedar Valley Christian Thursday, April 8, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at Memorial Field. The game will be proceeded by the first outing for the girls team beginning at 5 p.m. This Friday, the Comet girls and boys teams both go to Tipton for outings beginning at 5 and 6:30 p.m. respectively at Tipton City Park. On Tuesday, West Liberty hosts Davenport Assumption beginning at 6:30 p.m.