MELISSA — Denison claimed a 3-1 victory versus Melissa in both teams’ season-opener at Cardinal Stadium on Monday, Jan. 8. The Class 5A Yellow Jackets punched across one goal in the opening period and two more in the second for the win. Melissa’s lone goal came on a penalty kick by Eric Ramirez nine minutes into the second half, a score that drew the Cards to within 2-1. Denison added its final goal on a penalty kick with six minutes left to play.
“We were very slow,” Melissa head coach Kelley Pitzer said. “We didn’t move the ball fast enough. And defensively, we just made some mistakes. Live and learn, keep moving forward. … We played good defensively in the midfield. We played good defensively in the attacking third. We just didn’t play a lot of good defense in the back. A lot times we should have put our head on the ball and we didn’t.”
Pitzer noted the play of Cardinal central midfielders Ramirez and Yoshiya Ando. “Both of them played well in the middle of the field,” he said. “They played together, they played smart — on both sides of the ball.”
The Jackets, Pitzer said, “moved the ball well, moved the ball quickly.”
Denison’s back line was formidable, including 6-4 senior Luke Altnether in the middle. “When you have a guy that’s 6-4 that’s playing center-back,” Pitzer said. “He’s winning a lot of balls in there. And he wasn’t afraid to win those balls. He’s a good player. He was smart and he didn’t get overwhelmed when people were running at him. Size does matter a little bit when it comes to set-pieces (corner kicks, free kicks, inbounds passes), especially as a center-back.”
Melissa’s three-time District Goalkeeper of the Year, Josh Love, was out of state and not available for this contest. In the Cards’ net this night was senior Winston Chawira, who recorded eight saves.
The first Jacket goal came 25 minutes into the match, a nearly straight-on shot by Reece Strange from 20 yards out that found the left corner of the net. Less than two minutes into the second period, Denison struck again after a deep through-ball to Andres Menjivar breaking free to the goal.
After Ramirez’ penalty kick answered for Melissa, Altnether closed out the scoring with his own PK.
“Overall, I think it was OK for our first time out,” Pitzer said. “I didn’t like the score, but that’s OK. … Obviously, we’ve got to go back to the training ground and work a little bit. There are some things we can fix. The thing is, they’re fixable. It’s trainable. And we don’t play again for a week.”
That match is against Frisco Independence at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 16, at Frisco’s Toyota Stadium.