Welcoming Santa Barbara, the No. 3 ranked team in the state, onto its home pitch on Tuesday afternoon, the Canyons’ men’s soccer team held tough, drawing a 0-0 tie.
Coming out aggressive and pressing high, the Vaqueros controlled the ball with ease while trying to break down Canyons defense by pushing the ball forward through the left and right sides of the pitch.
Canyons (2-2-2) defenders had the tall task of guarding the Vaqueros attacking midfielder Ameyawu Muntari, and their two star forwards Kevin Kwizera and Celso Lagunas, who lead the team with four goals apiece on the season.
Time and time again the Vaqueros (5-1-1) attacked with numbers, but Cougar defenders Tyler Jovel, Kevin Santillan, Enrique Perez and Jake Erazo manned a stout defense that kept them at bay.
“To be honest, whenever it comes to guarding new players, I like to see what they can do so I always challenge them one-on-one,” said Jovel. “If I get beat I learned from it and that’s what I did. Even though (Muntari’s) moves were sharper than any winger I’ve gone against, but we managed as a team to adjust and stop anything they had.”
Canyons forward Christopher Alomia and midfielder Cesar Dominguez provided a number of scoring opportunities in the first half, but couldn’t convert in the attacking third.
“I think it’s just a matter of work rate for the next game,” Alomia said. “If we work as hard as we did on defense for attacking in the transition moments then we should be able to get the goal next time around.”
Heading into halftime the Vaqueros had 12 shots compared to four shots for the Cougars.
Dominating the ball to begin the second half, Muntari and Kwizera kept switching fields to try and catch the Cougars defenders napping, but the back line held tough and never succumbed.
Trying to get a spark out of his team, Canyons head coach Philip Marcellin brought on Andres Lozano in place of Alomia up top. Creating an opportunity within the first 15 minutes after being subbed in, Lozano was fouled just outside the 18-yard box and was rewarded with a free kick.
With Lozano’s fresh legs and nose for the ball, the Cougars were able to ramp up their counterattacks pushing the ball up with every chance they got.
In the waning minutes of the game, the Vaqueros made one last push as there was a mad scramble in front of the Cougars’ goalie box with Lagunas attempting back-to-back shots that were denied.
After all was said and done, the game ended in a draw and the Cougars handed the Vaqueros their second non-win and first tie in seven games this season.
COC’s next game is on the road against Taft on Friday at 4 p.m.
“The effort was there, the result wasn’t what I wanted, but I think that we can beat this team,” Marcellin said. “We executed our game plan and we had our chances, but I’m happy with the draw because the draw is going to get us where we need to get as far as the mentality of how we need to play.
“The effort, the intensity and organization, if we had been playing like that all along we would be the No. 3 team in the state and we would be unbeaten.”
Santa Barbara 3, Canyons 0
Hosting the Vaqueros women’s soccer team in the earlier game on Tuesday, Canyons lost 3-0.
Canyons fell behind 1-0 after Santa Barbara’s Isabella Viana scored a goal in the 24th minute of the first half.
Seven minutes later, the score was 2-0. This time, a costly mistake by a Canyons player put the ball in the back of the net for the second time in the first half.
Heading into halftime, the Vaqueros held a 2-0 lead and the edge in shots with seven compared to Canyons’ three.
Canyons came out aggressive in the second half with Gracell Magnaye and Kylia Bradford-Oliver attacking down the middle and left side of the pitch.
With 10 minutes left in the contest, Magnaye tried to connect with Bradford-Oliver as she found herself one-on-one with a Vaquero defender, but the shot was blocked and the rebound was collected safely by Santa Barbara.
Santa Barbara was able to add a garbage time goal as a corner kick was crossed into the middle and headed in with about a minute left in the game.
Canyons has a quick turnaround and will host Fresno at 5:30 p.m. on Friday.
“We are still having a hard time getting out of our own way,” said Canyons head coach Justin Lundin. “We are giving up easy goals just about every game and at some point we have to make the other teams earn the goals rather than give them the goals.”