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Little Score, Big Win For Cougar Soccer
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They may have split their games on the home field this week but varsity soccer coach Chris Oliveira thinks his Cougars made some real progress.

It wasn't the win over Hilmar on Thursday that impressed him the most, though, it was Tuesday's 'never say die' approach to the game that gave him hope for the second half of the season.

Hosting Patterson on Tuesday, the Cougars fell behind by a 2-0 score in the first half.

"I thought we were playing very well," Oliveira said. "Patterson is just a very, very good team."

Despite having two goals scored on them and then allowing another in the third for a 3-0 Tiger lead, Oliveira said the Cougars continued to battle and forced Patterson into a defensive mode.

"We put a lot of pressure on them, we got probably four or five one-on-ones with their goalie, the last 20 minutes was exciting," the coach noted. "Even though it ended up as a 3-1 loss it was a real pick-me up."

Patterson is not only the leader in Trans-Valley League play but is also rated as one of the best teams in the section.

It was Escalon's offensive pressure that led to their lone goal, the Patterson defense getting caught making a mistake and putting it on net for the Cougars.

"There was a second one that hit the post," added Oliveira.

Julio Farias made eight saves in goal against Patterson.

The enthusiasm with which the Cougars played that game carried over into practice on Wednesday, said Oliveira, and the squad parlayed it into a 1-0 victory over a tough Hilmar team on Thursday.

Oliveira said he saw a change in the team this week and was glad to see the players gain more confidence in their abilities as they faced off with the top two teams in the league.

"We started to think that maybe the results of our games derives from what we do, not what other teams do to us," he said.

Against Hilmar, the host Cougars got a goal within the first 10 minutes, Derek Castro notching the goal with an assist from Jesus Duran at the 8-minute mark.

"I was happy for Derek, it was nice to see him step up and get it going," said Oliveira.

From there, the Cougars had to defend against an angry Yellowjackets team, looking to even the score.

"Hilmar is definitely no joke," Oliveira said of the tightly contested game. "They wanted to get that goal back."

Escalon held them off, however, with five saves from Farias and a solid defensive effort.

"Saul Plascencia has really been doing well, Alejandro Patino is tying things up on defense and we just moved Luis Gallo back there, he's been doing a good job defensively," said Oliveira.

With the split of league games, the Cougars close out the first half of the TVL campaign at 2-4-1. But with their improvement in teamwork and attitude this week, Oliveira said he's looking forward to the second half.

"When we fell down 3-0 to Patterson, we could have called it a season," he pointed out. "But they didn't, the guys are starting to believe."

That newfound belief in their ability to play with anybody in the league may be the turning point for the squad as they look to make a run for postseason with a strong second half.

The Cougars will host Ripon Christian on Thursday, Oct. 14 and then play host to Hughson on Tuesday, Oct. 19. Game time for the contests is 4 p.m.