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The reserves feel the pressure

Mike Sciandra
msciandra@lahontanvalleynews.com
Wave junior Angel Cornejo (left) charges away from Sparks junior captain Alex Medina.

It is the mark of optimistic and perceptive coaching to recognize the good aspects of a loss. That wisdom is clear and present in the new Fallon boys soccer coach Miguel Ordunas after the Wave lost 4-0 to Sparks in their home match on Wednesday.

The match left the Wave at 0-4 both overall and in league play, while the Railroaders are 9-1 overall and 5-0 in league play. Though some who look at the score might be hard pressed to find the silver lining, Ordunas was impressed with what a line of younger reserve players were capable of while so many of the Wave’s veterans are still benched due to injury.

“With the amount of inexperience that was out there on the field, both coach Vincent and I are flabbergahasted as far as to the amount of work the team put out there and how well they connect.”

Ordunas counted 6 or 7 injuries among the many obstacles that the Wave has face since the season began, particularly in light of this match since Sparks reigns as the No. 1 team in the league at this time.

“For us to keep it at 4-0 when these guys have been going around and beating everybody 10-0,” Ordunas said, “we played up really well. If we keep doing what we’re doing right now with our very inexperienced reserves, when we come back with our full original roster I think we’re gonna be a different team.”

The game began uncharacteristically, since the Wave was first to touch and managed to keep possession for the first two minutes despite their history of losing control. Then the Sparks’ onslaught truly began. The Wave reserves were up against one of the fastest teams in the league in terms of sheer rushing speed. This, combined with a somewhat timid offense unwilling to force close contact, would lead to Sparks scoring an early lead with their first goal by freshman Alex Cabrera. He dove at the far corner of the goalpost into two Wave defensemen to get an angle on the ball that not even senior Wave goalkeeper and captain Michael McCormack could reach to block. This was a risk that the more aggressive Sparks boys would be more than willing to exploit for their next few goals.

Though the Wave’s passing game was strong, another factor that further impressed coach Ordunas, without the necessary agression to exploit what few opportunities they found for breakaways, the ratio of coverage seemed to be two Fallon players for ever Sparks player that would rush them and take possession. This gave the Railroaders the advantage of keeping most of the early first quarter in the Wave goalpost.

The Wave defense began strong, particularlywith the duo of seniors Thomas Robertson and Dustin Hopkins who were able fast enough to crowd most of the Railroader offense and force them to run too far to the left corner of the field to charge the goalpost.

However, this solid defense would not last against Sparks sophomore Bryan Munoz, who was able to repeat Cabrera’s risky dive and kick from the opposite corner, scoring the Railroaders’ second goal with 24 minutes left.

Wave senior Hopkins had an impressive control game in his charges afterward, but unfortunately most of that time was spent competing with Railroaders’ junior captain Alexis Medina, able to rival Hopkins in speed and aggressiveness until Hopkins would repetiviely crash into the Sparks defense with the Wave too spread out to help.

Not long after, Sparks senior Alejandro Ramirez was able to break away past Hopkins and piled into a cluster around the goalpost that allowed the ball to narrowly sneak past McCormack for the third goal of the game.

For several minutes, the Wave began to come out of their shell with aggression to match their passing game, finally able to get the ball to their midfielders for an increased number of breakaways. Wave junior Angel Cornejo was among the strongest and most consistently aggressive to keep possession and be willing to fight shin to shin with the Sparks defenders that would charge him. Though Cornejo managed to keep the second part of the first quarter in Sparks’ goalpoast, with the help of Wave senior Gonzalo Sanchez who was equally unafraid to fight for the ball, the Wave defense could not hold on as long it might’ve taken for Fallon to have a chance to score.

Before long, with two minutes left in the first half, Sparks junior Levi Murrel, a transfer from Georgia, dove at the left corner of the Wave goalpost and scored the fourth goal of the match.

“Levi looks more like an American Football player to some.” said Sparks head coach Frank Avilla Sr. “He is fast like the wind.”

The second half made it as clear as the first that McCormack was the same goalie he always was, able to shut out the Sparks offense even as they lost no energy. The willingness to fight for possession that the Wave reserves lacked in the first half was clear and present now by the examples of the juniors and seniors on offense.

Cornejo had one of the closest attempts at a goal of the entire game for Fallon, joining Murrel, defending, on the ground as both tumbled to the right corner of the field and the ball went flying just past the Sparks goalpost.

Though breakaways were plenty between Cornejo and Hopkins, the Railroaders’ Cabrera was able to keep up as the reserve goalkeeper when junior goalkeeper Jose Cerritos was benched after a bad fall.

The Wave defense was tireless despite the speed of the Railroaders’ offense, able to coordinate tight cluster blocking around Medina and Murrel that would’ve shut the two out in the first half as well.

By the end of the second half, it was clear to both coaches that the Wave might have been able to save the match had they performed in the first half as powerfully as they did in the second half.

“Fallon, there’s no question they’re working hard,” Avilla said. “We’re proud of their new coaching staff trying to put stuff together. We’re blessed since we were able to play everybody here today, and you saw for a good 60 minutes out of 80 we got to play our reserves and they did a really good job. We’re proud of what our efforts are. The boys were rolling in the first half and in the second half, we worked on a lot of touch, and we were fortunate to see them get their shots. Fallon’s keeper did a good job. The young man works hard back there as well as all of their players. So we’re pleased with the outcome obviously.”

Avilla also said he felt Sparks was blessed to have the freshman and sophomores of his team play a good style of ball and be able to adjust to the style of play that they’ve been successful with.

“I come from the old school where if it aint broke, we don’t fix it,” Avilla said. “We just keep rolling, and keep working with it, and keep rolling with our defenses that we do but we do have different schemes. Today we were able to take a look at some of those and it was just a good day all around for Sparks boys’ soccer.”

Ordunas acknowledged that his team was definitely nervous in the first half, and that this held them off their full potential for too long.

“I think the fact that they know that they (Sparks) are the number one team got in their heads,” said Ordunas. “Before the game we told them, “We came to play soccer, so we don’t care who is on the other side.” That’s the way we’re going to try to play, with the ultimate goal of winning of course.”

The Wave’s next game is an away game today against Spring Creek at 5 p.m., and their next home game is this Saturday against Elko at noon.