Thirteen goals spread out over two games added up to a pair of wins for the Escalon varsity Cougar soccer boys, and they clinched the Trans-Valley League championship in the process.
On Monday, Feb. 6 the boys were on the road to face Modesto Christian, coming away with an 8-0 victory.
“It was 5-0 at halftime,” said coach Paul Silva. “It was a pretty straightforward game, our passing was crisp and our movement off the ball was good.”
Andrew Benitez had the hat trick, notching three goals to go along with one assist. Guillermo Alvarez had two goals and one assist, Denis Pineda chipped in with three assists.
“He really controlled the midfield,” Silva said of Pineda.
Erik Paez added a goal, Hector Rodriguez had a goal.
“Luis Mendez played about 60 minutes in goal and had three saves, Ismael Gonzalez played 20 minutes and had one save,” added the coach.
Wednesday at home, the varsity squad handled Hughson in a 5-0 contest, which clinched the TVL championship, the Cougar boys repeating as champions. It was also the final regular season home game for 11 seniors.
“We keep it kind of low key,” Silva said of not having any special recognition for the seniors prior to the game. “I make sure to get them all playing time, though.”
It took until midway through the first half for the Cougars to get on the board, Alvarez putting the first goal of the day in the net at the 20:00 mark, assisted by Chris Gallo. Five minutes later, Rodriguez scored with an assist from Alvarez and at the 34:00 mark, Alvarez notched his second goal of the game, unassisted.
“In the second half, about 60 minutes into the game, Guillermo got his third goal, completing the hat trick, with an assist from Andrew Benitez,” Silva explained. “Then with about two minutes left in the game, Andrew Benitez scored with an assist from Hector Rodriguez.”
That made it a 5-0 final, with each goaltender minding the net for a half. Mendez had three first half saves, Gonzalez had three second half saves.
“We knew that if we won we would be TVL champs,” said Silva. “The effort was good, we played really well and I am very pleased with the type of soccer they’re playing right now.”
The team is working together efficiently and playing selfless soccer, the coach noted, with everyone getting involved in the attack.
“We lead the section in scoring,” Silva said.
With one final TVL game remaining, the boys were scheduled to be at Hilmar for a Monday, Feb. 13 contest, after The Times went to press. They went in to that game with a 10-0-1 record in league, the only blemish a 3-3 tie with Ripon. Overall, they are 17-0-2, the other tie coming in their first contest of the season, a tie with Linden.
“The first day of practice, I asked the guys what they wanted out of this season,” Silva remembered. “They said they wanted to be TVL champs, they wanted to defend their title. I’m proud of the work they did to accomplish that.”
Playoff action will start next week; the Cougars likely will have a home game on Tuesday, Feb. 21 but that won’t be certain until the playoff seeding meetings later this week.
Just one game this past week for Escalon’s young JV Cougars, as they hosted and defeated Hughson in Wednesday afternoon action. Between raindrops, the JV squad poured 10 goals into the net and allowed only a handful of shots to the visitors, taking a 10-0 victory off the field.
Four goals in the first half and six more in the second provided the margin of victory, as the boys were not challenged much by the visiting Huskies.
Alvaro Plascencia, Alvaro Sanchez, Ryan Alpizar and Emiliano Ramirez found the net in the first half; Plascencia and Ramirez each added another score in the second half. Ricky Erazo had two second half goals, Moises Grajeda and Miguel Calderon had one each. Notching assists on the day were Ramirez, Erazo, Alpizar and Jonathan Yepez.
“They only got about four shots on goal,” JV head coach Polo Rodriguez said of Hughson.
The JV Cougars improved to 7-2 in league with the Wednesday win, and are 14-1-4 overall. They were scheduled to play their final game on Monday, Feb. 13 at Hilmar after The Times went to press. Their two losses in league entering the final game both came to rival Riverbank.
Two close games were both losses for Escalon’s varsity soccer girls during the past week. They took a 2-1 loss to Modesto Christian on Monday, Feb. 6 with Macie Chase scoring the goal with an assist from Mya Beary. Leticia Gutierrez had three saves.
In a Wednesday road game, Feb. 8, the girls lost to Hughson by a 6-2 final. Madison Kindberg scored a goal off a free kick for the varsity squad, while Morgan Dominguez added the other tally and Alondra Martinez picked up an assist. Gutierrez and Lily Franks split time in goal, each making three saves.
The JV girls did not have any games this past week, but both squads were scheduled to close out their season at home on Monday, Feb. 12 after The Times went to press. They were to host Hilmar and the varsity team also planned to salute its two seniors, Lexi Wheeler and Angelica Fernandez.