Valley Center High School coach Jeff Burger had high hopes for his soccer team Tuesday. Valley Center and Goddard Eisenhower, two squads that struggled to win games this year, faced off in an Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail Division II matchup.
Despite the motivation of senior night, Valley Center fell to the visiting Tigers 3-1. Burger said the contest was important due to playoff implications.
“We just lowered ourselves a spot tonight,” said Burger. “We needed to step up and play our best soccer, and we didn’t even come close.”
Although the Hornets’ inexperience has hampered them all year, another challenge Tuesday was that senior Jason DeGarmo was coming off an injury. DeGarmo, a center mid, had missed a week of soccer and “was not himself,” said Burger.
“They beat us in the middle of the field,” the coach continued. “They owned the middle in the first part of the game.”
Eisenhower sophomore Corey Bozarth scored the first goal of the night. He put the Tigers on the board with 14:28 remaining in the first half.
Eisenhower picked up another goal with less than a minute left and then Valley Center’s seniors were honored at halftime. Burger said a lineup change at the break resulted in the Hornets’ only goal.
Freshman Jordan Gomez-Nix scored with 37:31 on the clock, and Valley Center trailed 2-1. However, Eisenhower answered at the 34:40 mark. The Hornets’ senior goalkeeper, John McCune, tumbled to the ground and had his hands on the ball, but Tiger senior Thomson Ticum kicked it loose and scored. That gave Eisenhower a 3-1 advantage.
McCune redeemed himself less than a minute later, when he intercepted another Eisenhower shot. Despite their lead, the Tigers were relentless as the minutes waned. McCune recorded another save at about 11:30, and Eisenhower launched a shot that bounced off the crossbar one minute later. A near-miss also bounced off the bar with just more than eight minutes to go.
“I’ll put my keeper against any keeper,” said Burger. “I’ve never heard a single complaint out of him.”
Senior goalkeeper Max Thompson replaced McCune with 7:24 left in the game. Tuesday’s loss dropped Valley Center to 3-12 overall.
Burger pointed out that few Hornet seniors had more than two or three years of soccer experience. He said most of them started learning the sport when they were in high school. The inexperience was noticeable because their touch on the ball and their game awareness were not there, Burger added.
Even so, he acknowledged that coaches had asked a lot from the seniors as they tried to rebuild the program this year.
“They’re a great bunch of guys,” Burger remarked, “and they’ve made a lot out of a little.”