Boys soccer loses in close final match against Charter Oak

Varsity boys soccer fell 2-3 against Charter Oak in its final home league game of the season on Senior Night Wednesday, Feb. 5, placing fifth overall in the Hacienda League.

In preparation for the final game, the team practiced during sixth period and after school, focusing on transitions into attacking, keeping possession and creating  offensive plays. The team watched replays of the games against Charter Oak to better understand the opponent’s strategies and formulate ways to counter them.

“Going into this game, we felt really pumped since we knew that we needed to win this game in order to get a spot in CIF,” forward senior Eli Duran said. “[Varsity coach Nicholas Blackford ] was implementing high [pressure] and [changed] formations, and it helped a little bit. We completed many drills countering the other team’s tactics.”

In the first half, captain wing senior Micah Rickard scored the opening goal in the first five minutes by rebounding a missed shot from Duran. Later on, the Mustangs scored again when Rickard passed the ball to forward senior Matthew Moreno, who scored from a high corner kick. Goalkeeper senior Ziao Zhen made multiple consecutive saves, ending the first half 2-0.

“After I made my goal, I was really happy since it had been a while since I scored. I had recently come back from a concussion, and I had been so unlucky every game by hitting the crossbar or the post and missing shots,” Moreno said. “Since it was Senior Night, I felt that we were all very motivated for the game. It was the last game for a lot of us. That fact empowered us to come out stronger than usual and encouraged us all to do our best.”

In the second half with Walnut still in the lead, goalkeeper junior Christopher Phillips was substituted in for Zhen, who sustained a face injury after clashing with the goal post from an attempted save. Minutes later, Zhen re-entered the game. 

“When I was able to make multiple blocks, it got me pretty hyped that I was able to stop them and it gave me more motivation to keep making more saves,” Zhen said. “We felt we were about to win the game at the end of the first half, but because of that, we lost the lead. [After Charter Oak came back,] I knew that we needed to get back together and make one or two more goals in order to win the game.”

Charter Oak scored three goals after breaking through Walnut’s defensive line and shooting into the bottom corners of the goal. In the final minutes of the game, a dispute occurred between two players from each team. Following the confrontation, the referees and Walnut administration decided to call the game, ending it 2-3.

“The team always comes first, and it’s not about any individual player. If any individual player gets into a fight, then I am always going to have his back,” center back senior Ahmad Alshanti said. “Lack of communication towards the end let the other team score on us because we have a strong defense and no one just scores 3 goals on us.”

As a special dedication to Senior Night, all seniors were given special boards along with posters that contained some of their favorite memories throughout their high school soccer career. In addition, family members, friends and Walnut staff attended in support of the team’s last game of the season. 

“Since this game was Senior Night, it felt different because I knew that this game was going to be the last game of the season [and] of my high school career. I had that weird feeling of not being able to play in the league again,” Rickard said. “For this game, I really wanted to end the season with a goal in the last game, and I was going to do whatever it took to get it to score and do my part for the team.”

The Mustangs are looking to improve their offense and teamwork for next year’s soccer season by working on quicker decision making, keeping control of the ball, maintaining communication, and more accurate shooting drills.

By Samuel Au, Staff writer
Photo by Tristan Gonzalez