When West Ranch High boys soccer played Newbury Park last season, it lost by two goals. It was part of a learning process for the Cats, who were still figuring out how to become a more competitive team under then-first-year coach Louis Mogrovejo.
A year later, the upgrade seems to be progressing. The Wildcats pulled off a 1-1 draw after a back-and-forth overtime period at West Ranch on Tuesday.
“This year we’ve been connecting more,” said West Ranch left midfielder Andrew Choy. “We’ve been pressuring up more, we’ve been getting on every man and we’ve been working together as a team. I think that’s how we got a little momentum.”
Choy scored the Wildcats’ lone goal of the game just five minutes into the second half. Jacob Gendein wheeled up the right side of the field, then passed to Choy, who sent the ball rocketing past Newbury Park’s goalkeeper.
The Wildcats (1-0-1) have been focusing on playing a faster, more aggressive style of soccer this season. The backbone of their game is midfield — Choy, Brad Mendez and Freddy Montez.
“We’re playing a different style from last year — with a lot more energy,” said coach Mogrovejo. “And we feed a lot off the midfielders. The three midfielders we have, those boys bring a lot of energy to the game and it transitions throughout the players and it all starts to click and connect.”
The new style helped the Cats against a bigger Newbury Park team, a squad with a strong attack and solid footwork. The Panthers got shots and steals early, but the Wildcats’ defense remained sturdy.
In the 58th minute, however, West Ranch gave up the game-tying goal off a free kick.
“We just wanted that win,” Choy said. “We started playing really aggressive and took it to them and got a foul. They took it and put it away. It’s unlucky for us, but it happens.”
Tuesday’s game was the second consecutive for the Wildcats. On Monday, the team shut out La Salle High of Pasadena, 3-0.
While the victory from the day before added some confidence, it took away from the Wildcats’ endurance. As the second half turned into overtime, Cats kept cramping up, temporarily removing players from the game.
West Ranch was still able to hold off the Panthers attack for overtime, signaling, West Ranch hopes, a strong upcoming Foothill League season.
“For me, it’s a fun game because it really tests us and gets us going,” Mogrovejo said. “I like to play tough schools where they test our limits. (Newbury Park) is not small. They’re fast and our defense held up well, so we have a lot to build on. I liked what I saw. It helped us a lot for league coming up.”