WICHITA, Kan.—Last week was a tough one for Wichita Northwest. After dropping a 1-goal game to Kapaun, the Grizzlies turned around and finished with a 1-goal loss to Bishop Carroll. Starting this week trying to turn it around against No. 5 Derby is no easy landing for the fall from the previous week.
But the Grizzlies proved up to the task, using the speed of their strikers to leave the Panthers stunned in a 4-1 victory.
“We stuck together and from those losses we knew we had to come out and play harder than what we did last week,” said junior forward Andres Lleras. “We kept our composure and we stuck as a team and just played calm the whole game and found a way to win.”
Off the opening, it was Derby that came out like a team in desperate need of a win, controlling the attack and using the athleticism of Alan Flores to pressure the Northwest goal. But the Grizzlies keeper Zack Rodriguez was up to the task, weathering the early storm without allowing a goal.
Having gotten through the initial Derby flurry at the net with little attack of its own, Northwest reminded everyone what makes this such a dangerous team. With the ball coming off Rodriguez’ foot, deep in Northwest territory, a booming kick allowed Lleras to run under the ball, beat everyone, and blast a shot into the back of the net before the Derby defense had a chance to blink.
“We have God-given speed,” said Northwest head coach Bobby Bribiesca. “That is what that is. Andres, and then Jacob McKay, those two guys are on the track team.”
The Lleras goal put an exclamation point on how quickly the Grizzlies can score after having gone scoreless in their last two.
While Derby was still trying to process what had happened, Northwest stayed on the attack, and two minutes after the first goal, the Grizzlies were rewarded with a penalty kick that Caleb Mills buried after being tackled in the penalty area.
The Panthers’ attack finally paid off about a minute after the penalty kick when Hernan Vielmas took and assist from Dimitri Starr and got Derby on the board with a tough-angle shot that made it 2-1 at the half.
But in the second half, Northwest picked up the play, and Derby began to self-destruct. Although a 2-1 Grizzlies’ lead with a half to play is still a contest up for grabs, a Derby red card for a tackle from behind tilted the pitch and gave the Panthers an incline to navigate. A second red card for a slide tackle from behind all but sealed the Derby fate.
Mills picked up a couple of assists in the second half, rounding out a productive game, first finding Mitchell Shurtz who found the net in a one-on-one battle with the keeper, and then setting up Preston Mboob who drilled a volley into the net from the top of the box.
While some teams may shudder at the three-game stretch Northwest has just come through, and the possibility of facing Derby on a two-game slide, the Grizzlies welcome the challenge.
“I like the schedule,” said Bribiesca. “I like playing tough teams. That is what is going to help you in regional play. I thought we stepped it up today.”