High School Boys Soccer

Lesson learned for Spartans boys in playoff-opening win

By Dennis Silva II, Sports Editor
Posted 3/28/21

The final score read 5-2 in favor of Seven Lakes in its Class 6A boys soccer bi-district playoff game Friday against George Ranch at Legacy Stadium. The three-goal differential qualifies as a decisive win in soccer, but for Spartans coach Jimmy Krueger, his team’s performance was on the wrong end of a wakeup call.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in
High School Boys Soccer

Lesson learned for Spartans boys in playoff-opening win

Posted

The final score read 5-2 in favor of Seven Lakes in its Class 6A boys soccer bi-district playoff game Friday against George Ranch at Legacy Stadium. The three-goal differential qualifies as a decisive win in soccer, but for Spartans coach Jimmy Krueger, his team’s performance was on the wrong end of a wakeup call.

It took a flurry of goals in the second half to hold off a feisty 7-7-5 Longhorns team as 18-1-1 Seven Lakes held a 2-1 lead at the half.

“The big thing right now is you can’t overlook any opponents,” said Krueger, whose team plays Cy Ridge in the area round Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. “We came out like the game was already decided, and it showed in the first half. We didn’t bring the work and they did. At halftime, we talked that this is it. We have expectations to make a deep run and it would be a shame to ruin the opportunity.

“The success we had in the regular season doesn’t matter right now. This is a completely different world. It’s win or go home.”

The Spartans elected to win, thanks to strong performances from senior midfielder Vicente Garcia and sophomore striker Hunter Merritt.

Garcia scored two goals within the first six minutes of the second half, the first on an opportune header off a rebound and the second on a penalty kick.

“We wanted to speed things up,” said Garcia, who ranks in the top-10 all-time scoring in program history with 22 goals, 11 goals this season. “We knew we were the better team, so we had to have the intensity from the start. Things had to be better. One bad game in the playoffs and you go home. We’ve got to be at our best every game from here on out.”

Better late than never, the Spartans ultimately heeded Krueger’s sense of urgency. With 13:27 left, Merritt tracked down a nice cross from senior Diego Artola and beat the goalkeeper to the ball near the left side of the net for his second goal of the evening and a 5-1 Seven Lakes lead.

“This field is huge, so we had to play from the wide,” Merritt said. “We did that in the second half and got some goals. My teammates got out wide and crossed it in and I finished in the box.”

George Ranch, however, added a goal late, leaving the Spartans with a bit of uneasiness once it was over.

“We have to be stronger on defense,” Garcia said. “If we’re going to be state champs, our defense has to be solid every game. We can’t concede two goals like that, and we also have to control the midfield better. But we’ll get there. I know we’ll do things better.”

The Spartans scored twice in the game’s first seven minutes.

Senior forward Bryan Egba netted one 51 seconds into the game. Merritt followed with his first goal six minutes later.

But Seven Lakes relented a little and George Ranch capitalized with a penalty kick with 15:54 left in the first half. What looked to be an easy Seven Lakes rout was a one-goal game at the break.

“You score two fluky, early goals, and you hate for players to get into that mode where they kind of coast,” Krueger said. “A lot of coaches say a 2-0 lead is the worst lead of the game, especially in the first half, because teams get real complacent. We did. We thought it was done and they came out and battled and forced us to refocus. It’s lesson learned for us as we move on.”

The positive was Krueger saw many players step up when needed.

Merritt has been a revelation after playing on the junior varsity ‘B’ team last year, establishing himself as a strong, physical force in the box. Garcia has evolved from a striking specialist as a sophomore to more of an all-around playmaker as the team’s leading scorer. He always tends to rise to the occasion, though he and Krueger agree his finishing can be more consistent.

Senior midfielder Matt Stewart was bullish against George Ranch with two assists. Small but shifty, Stewart created havoc with his speed and strength and proved difficult to stop in creating chances for teammates.

“We want to be state champs. I know we can be state champs,” Garcia said. “We’ll keep working, keep getting better. I’m confident in this team.”

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment