It was Senior Night on Monday, Feb. 12 for the varsity soccer Cougars and though they took the field for the final time in a regular season game, the outcome wasn’t what they were looking for.
Hilmar came in and stung the Cougars in a 1-0 contest, handing Escalon just its second league loss of the campaign.
“It was a little bit anticlimactic,” admitted head coach Paul Silva, as the Cougars had captured the Trans-Valley League title the previous week and may have had a little bit of a letdown in the game against the Yellowjackets. “We came out really flat.”
Still, the teams were locked in a scoreless battle in the first half and it continued that way through much of the second. Hilmar finally broke through with about 10 minutes remaining in the game, getting on the scoreboard.
“Our intensity level picked up after that, we just didn’t put it in,” Silva said of being unable to find the back of the net.
Escalon had 13 seniors on its roster that were noted prior to the game. With 25 players on the roster, Silva said he tried to make sure all the seniors got some playing time in the final contest.
Oscar Gonzalez had six saves in goal for the Cougars.
In Trans-Valley League play the team went 10-2 and they were 19-4 overall. Escalon was due to host a first round playoff game on Tuesday, Feb. 20 after The Times went to press. The number three seed Cougars welcomed number six seed Delhi to town for an afternoon contest. A win there would put Escalon into the second round on Thursday, Feb. 22 against the winner of the number two seed Highlands-number seven seed Riverbank contest. Escalon would host Riverbank if the Bruins won the first round game; go on the road to Highlands if the higher seed prevailed.
Silva said the team focused in practice this past week on making sure they bring the intensity to the playoffs, as every team is tough and every game could be your last.
“The game speeds up and intensifies tremendously,” Silva noted. “We need to pick up the speed, get rid of the ball quicker. The longer you hold the ball the more of a target you become.”
Crisper passes, a more efficient offense, those will be keys in moving forward, the coach said.
Taking a 5-1 win off the field in their season finale, the JV Cougars were Trans-Valley League champions this season. They went 8-0-2 in league play, with just the two ties to blemish their record. Overall, they were 17-2-2.
“Not bad at all,” noted head coach Polo Rodriguez.
Scoring in the win over Hilmar in the Feb. 12 contest were five different players, with goals from C.J. Borrego, Ricky Erazo, Emiliano Ramirez, Gustavo Hernandez and Wylliam Vargas. Gabriel Romero had an assist, Ramirez had an assist and Clay Evans had two saves in goal.
Escalon had a 3-1 lead at the half and added two more goals to put the game away over the final 40 minutes.
“Our leading scorer this season, with 38 goals, was Gustavo Hernandez,” Rodriguez said. “Emiliano Ramirez was our leader in assists with 13.”
Both those players, along with several others from the JV squad, were pulled up to join the varsity team in the playoffs.