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Cougar Soccer Squads Put Wraps On Campaign
Cougar player Emiliano Ramirez, 8, takes the ball away for a Bruin attacker early in Thursday’s varsity boys soccer match in Riverbank. Much of the match was spent in Escalon’s territory, and they came up short, 2-0, in Trans-Valley League action. Ric McGinnis/The Times
Battling against a Riverbank opponent, senior Alondra Martinez, one of this year’s team captains for the Lady Cougars, makes her way up the field. She had a goal in a 5-0 Escalon win on Feb. 7. Marg Jackson/The Times

Escalon’s varsity boys lost, the varsity girls won, both taking on Riverbank in the Trans-Valley League soccer season finale. Neither team moves on to the Section playoffs, ending their seasons on Thursday, Feb. 7.

For the varsity boys, it was a bitter ending to a roller coaster season, as they needed a tie or a win against Riverbank to advance. But the host Bruins – coming off a huge win over Hilmar – controlled their own fate and would not be denied, shutting out Escalon by a 2-0 final. Both goals came in the first half.

“They came on strong in the second half of the season,” Escalon had coach Paul Silva said of the Bruins. “We had tied them earlier in the season.”

Riverbank notched the first goal about 23 minutes into the contest and made it 2-0 about 10 minutes later.

Bryan Barrientos had two saves in goal for Escalon, Oscar Gonzalez also saw time in net and made a pair of saves.

“I thought we played well,” added Silva. “We created a number of chances, had some great opportunities, it just wasn’t our night.”

If they had been able to get one goal in, Silva said he feels that might have changed the momentum in the game, but the Cougars could never get one into the back of the net.

“If we had gotten that goal it might have opened it up,” he said. “But credit to Riverbank, they played well.”

The Bruins ended the season at 7-4-1; their one tie against Escalon. The Cougars end at 6-4-2.

“It was a disappointing way to end the year,” admitted Silva. “You can play well, but if you can’t get the ball in the net, you can’t win.”

He also noted that the senior class has had a successful run and he was hoping they would get back to the playoffs and make a bid for the Section crown. The Cougars have been Section runner-ups the last two seasons; this year, Silva said the division shaped up differently and he believes they would have had a good chance to finally bring the blue banner home.

Not making the playoffs, however, doesn’t downgrade what has been a spectacular career for the many senior contributors.

“They have been key to our success in years past,” Silva said, adding that they had 12 seniors on the roster.

Trans-Valley League champion Livingston went into Division IV for the playoffs, with Riverbank and Hilmar representing the TVL in Division V.

“This is a season where we’ve had more injuries than usual and it just was a little too much to overcome,” Silva explained. “But I’m proud of the guys, they worked hard all year long.”

The JV boys, meanwhile, took a 2-1 loss at Riverbank on Feb. 7 to close out their season as well. They have had to adapt throughout the campaign, as four different JV players were pulled up during the year by Silva and stayed with the varsity team.



In their season finale, the varsity Lady Cougars put together a 5-0 victory, shutting out the visiting Lady Bruins. They were on the Riverbank side of the field for much of the game, pummeling the opposing goalie with shots. Georgina Gallo had two goals, with Mya Beary, Alondra Martinez and Natalie Cortes each notching one. Escalon kept the pressure on throughout the contest.

“Leti touched the ball once,” head coach Jamie Peoples said of goalie Leticia Gutierrez not seeing much action in net.

She also noted that seniors Gutierrez and Martinez “have been huge for the program for years” and will be missed next year.

The JV girls were in action on Thursday as well, picking up a game with Linden as Riverbank does not field a JV team. They lost the contest, closing out their season.