ANNA – In a battle of two playoff-bound teams, the Anna Coyotes (5-2-1) notched a big Senior Night win over Melissa on March 9 to close out district play as the second seed from District 9-4A. It was forward Diego Banda and midfielder Jesus Garrido who supplied the goals in Anna’s 2-0 victory on this windy evening at Coyote Stadium.
Anna entered the contest with a district title still in reach, but Gainesville’s coinciding win over Bonham this night would end those hopes. Melissa (2-4-1) was coming off a huge 3-1 victory over first-place Gainesville on March 6 – a result that clinched at least the district’s fourth playoff spot for the Cards.
In this rivalry match-up, a strong south wind made clean offensive maneuvering a dicey proposition. Melissa had the gale at its back in the first half but was unable to capitalize and the teams hit halftime locked in a scoreless tie.
The Coyotes broke the logjam in the 24th minute of the second half when Banda heel-kicked a corner kick into the net off a Garrido touch. Less than two minutes later, Garrido took a deflection and sent a wind-backed rocket for a goal from 35 yards out.
“It was a perfect ball and I just loaded up and shot it in,” Garrido said of his crucial kick. “It was a big win.”
Garrido had another chance but his 30-yard penalty kick effort with 6:23 left to play caromed off the crossbar.
In describing the match’s scoreless first half, Garrido said, “It was a lot harder against the wind. We just kept it consistent, kept moving the ball a lot more than we usually do.”
“Man, the wind,” added midfielder Charley Morales. “I feel like that was a big factor. With the wind, you play better. It’s, like, better balls and everything. With the wind against you, you usually struggle to get balls through.”
With the victory, Anna completed its two-game sweep of the Cards this season.
“It means a lot, especially tonight – Senior Night,” Morales said. “It’s a rivalry game. It means the world to me, to be honest.”
Anna took 17 shots to the Cards’ eight and led in corner kicks, 5-3. Both squads were allowed 14 free kicks each. Hunter Tallichet went the distance in-net for Melissa, posting five saves, while Coyotes goalkeeper David Joaquin logged one save, working all but the last four minutes when senior Alex Rosales came on in his final match at Coyote Stadium.
Besides Garrido, Morales, Joaquin and Rosales, four other senior Coyotes made their final appearance on the home pitch this night. They were Josue Hernandez, Oscar Rule, Peter Tenorio and Kody Drinkwater. All got into the game.
“I felt like we were very well organized in the first half against the wind,” Coyotes head coach Matt Ellis said. “We didn’t give up a ton of chances. I don’t feel like we gave up a ton of chances the whole game.
“I knew Melissa would be on a high, coming off that big win against Gainesville. And they have some dangerous players. I was a little hesitant coming in with how we should set up and how we should play. But the boys did exactly how we talked about, as far as our organization and our structure. I think our discipline was what was able to keep them from giving them too many chances.”
As for Garrido’s goal, Ellis said, “That was a missile. He got ahold of one and put it right in the corner – not too high, knee-height maybe. When you have a good, athletic, tall keeper it’s hard for them to get down on those. It couldn’t have come at a better time.”
Ellis praised Melissa midfielder Eric Ramirez. “[He] is so good. We wanted to stay with him.” Ramirez blasted a shot to the goal with the wind at his back just before halftime, an effort that just missed, high and to the right.
“They played so well against Gainesville,” Melissa head coach Kelley Pitzer said of his squad. “And tonight they were just a little flat. I don’t know if it’s Spring Break or what. They were just flat. In the defense, they played great.
“Tonight, we weren’t connecting passes well. That was the biggest difference. Friday [at Gainesville] we were connecting passes - nobody was touching the ball more than two or three times. It was a very quick game. Hardly any fouls. … Tonight - just a lot of ticky-tack fouls. And we gave up some goals.”
Pitzer took issue with the Coyotes’ first goal. “The goalkeeper was obstructed coming to get the ball. He ended up on his back side. … Two hands pushed him down to the ground.
“The second one, kudos to the kid [Garrido] that shot it. It was a great shot, a great volley. Not a lot you can do about that.
“We didn’t play well tonight, but either way, we’re locked in for the playoffs and we just look forward to that.”
Garrido was asked how he feels about the Coyotes’ post-season chances. ‘‘I feel great,” he said. “We’re doing a lot better than when we started. I feel confident in this team this year.”
Said Morales, “I think we’re ready. I think we’re ready to go as deep as we can.”
Concerning Anna’s team strengths at this point in the season, Morales said, “Our communication, our comeback, our effort. During the games, we’re down and we always come back. It’s our heart.”
Ellis summed it up like this: “Defensively, I really like where we’re at. The last two games, against Celina and then Melissa, I don’t feel like we gave up a ton of chances, which is really encouraging. Attacking-wise, we need to link together a little bit better. But give me defensive structure and I can work with that. We can move forward with that if we’re holding opponents to few chances.”
FINAL SOCCER STANDINGS
District 9-4A Boys (March 16 games cancelled)
District 9-4A, Girls (March 16 games cancelled)