A 1-0 loss to Hutchinson in Derby cost the Panthers dearly a week ago – no win on Senior Night, an end of a two-game win streak and a drop in postseason seeding.
Nothing went right.
“We hit every post known to man. We hit the goalie five times. We hit defenders 90 times,” said Derby head coach Paul Burke. “We turned around and spent a week focusing on finishing in the box – putting balls in the box that are dangerous.”
As luck would have it, the Panthers were given an opportunity to avenge the defeat a week later. This time, a spot in the regional final was on the line.
And this time, Derby defended its home turf with a 3-0 triumph.
Senior midfielder Jose Vaquera said it was a matter of adopting a do-or-die attitude this go-around with the season on the brink. The playbook did not need to be changed from the prior meeting.
“We did the same things, we just couldn't finish. That was the bottom line,” Vaquera said. “We did the same things we did last week, just this time we finished a couple.”
Derby (12-5) took an early lead after a fiery shot from Alan Flores hopped toward teammate Clayton Matzen, who settled the ball for a quick tap in goal 11 minutes into the first half.
It was a promising start for the Panthers.
“With us, it's whoever gets the first goal is usually going to win the game,” Vaquera said. “That's how it's been all season.”
Vaquera added an insurance goal eight minutes into the second half off a pristine pass from Julio Vielmas.
“He gave it right to me, and I just finished it. It was all him,” Vaquera said.
Two minutes later, Chase Sacket slammed a shot in the net from the right side to give the Panthers a 3-0 margin.
“It was just a different aura in the air tonight,” said Hutchinson head coach Brad Binns. “They got a few goals off of our unorganized play.”
The Salthawks only found moments of momentum, unable to string together a full 80 minutes. It cost them their postseason run, but Binns said the Salthawks (10-6-1) never lost their effort.
Burke said it was critical for the Panthers to match Hutchinson's energy coming off the previous loss.
The Panthers will face the winner of the Garden City versus Wichita Southeast game on Thursday. Burke said Derby will need to implement a disciplined defense moving ahead.