In their final non-league game of the season, West Ranch boys soccer hosted Highland at West Ranch on Wednesday.
Coming off a tough loss at the hands of Valencia on Tuesday, the Wildcats focused on resting their starters and giving some of their junior varsity players some varsity experience.
Holding their own, the Wildcats were able to end the first half tied 1-1 with the Bulldogs, but couldn’t subdue their scoring in the second half, falling 4-1.
“We aren’t looking too much at the defeat,” said assistant coach Guillermo Manuel Castro. “It was more of resting the players for Friday because we had a game against Valencia, yesterday, that didn’t go our way. It was important to rest the starters today and give the JV kids a chance to experience what varsity is all about. They held their own and I think they have a very good future to play varsity next season.”
After Highland went up 1-0 just 11 minutes into the game, West Ranch’s Josh Swanson answered with a goal of his own three minutes later to bring the teams level.
Off a set piece, Swanson and captain Jacob Gendein stood at the top of the 18-yard box awaiting the kick. Playing the ball short, West Ranch (2-4-2 overall, 0-2-1 in Foothill League) was able to confuse the Bulldogs defense allowing Gendein and Swanson to get inside position.
Gendein was able to make contact with the ball and allowed Swanson to pick up the ball, fake two Highland players out and take a quick shot, catching the Bulldogs goalkeeper off guard to score the game-tying goal.
“It was a loose ball that Jacob was trying to control that came off of him,” Swanson said. “I have to give him all the credit because all I had to do was settle the ball and find that back post.”
Wholesale subs came in with 20 minutes left in the first half, allowing players like Owen Strunck, Adam Hernandez and Daniel Ostlund the opportunity to test their skills against a strong Highland (3-6-1, 2-5-1 in Golden League) team.
Highland scored its second goal of the game four minutes into the second half after a low-line cross was played into the middle for the tap-in goal.
Showing some flashes, Hernandez and Ostlund were constantly in motion trying to find the perfect run or pass down the left flank and up the middle of the pitch.
Highland scored two more goals in the second half, one of which came off a penalty call inside the penalty box with under 12 minutes remaining in the game to all but seal the win.“I think we were trying to prepare for Hart in the shape that we were trying to play,” Castro said. “If we had a day to prepare for Highland and this was a game that we really wanted to win I think tactically, we would have changed a lot of things at halftime but we were just focusing on Hart.
“I thought they were a very good team that knows their system inside and out. At the end of the day, we accomplished what we wanted to by giving JV players a chance and resting players.”
Still looking for their first Foothill League win, West Ranch travels to Newhall to take on Hart on Friday. Kickoff is to be announced.