Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Jocelyn Rowley
Sports@lhvc.com 

Soccer: Niwot survives close calls to remain unbeaten

 

September 13, 2017



The Niwot boys soccer team narrowly averted a tick in the loss column last week, instead settling for a tie in the first road trip of the season.

Even with 100 minutes to do so, the Niwot offense couldn’t find the back of the net at Skyline. Fortunately, as they did so many times last year, Mario Munoz and the Cougars’ defense came to the rescue once again, keeping the deceptively fast Falcons out of the net as well.

Nevertheless, Niwot head soccer coach Steve Dimit was less than pleased with the outcome of the traditionally heated cross-town rivalry.

“We always want to beat Skyline, and we didn’t get that done today,” he said following the physical match in which his team committed 13 fouls and were charged three yellow cards. “We didn’t connect enough passes. We were off our game today.”

The Cougars definitely had their chances on offense, but Skyline’s speedy defense neutralized Niwot’s wing attack. Senior Jose Jimenez-Flores led the Cougars with five shots on the day, while Manuel Tapia and Jason Rodriguez were held to just two apiece.

At the other end of the field, Niwot’s defense faced its first real test of the year, as Skyline consistently pressed into the Cougars’ third. Seniors Abel Marrufo, Nicholas Grant, and Cam Lee held the Falcons at bay, however, and keeper Munoz was once again spectacular in goal.

“The positive is that we came away with a clean sheet,” said Dimit. “Defensively I thought we were pretty solid.”

Four days later, the still weary Cougars needed a second half comeback to beat the struggling Lewis Palmer Rangers, who are winless this season after making an appearance in the Class 4A semi-finals in 2016. Niwot was also missing several players, thanks to some minor injuries and ACT testing day. Swinging up from JV to bolster the squad were freshman Aidan Martin and sophomore Nico Haratsaris, among others.

The Rangers took advantage of a sluggish start and some rare defensive breakdowns by the Cougars to go up 2-1 in the first half on a pair of goals from sophomore Justin Kuot. Niwot senior Jonathan Jimenez-Flores scored his second goal of the year in the 32nd minute, for the home team’s lone score of the period.

The Cougars came out of the break energized, and junior Manny Tapia evened the score at 2-2 less than three minutes into the half. Niwot continued to press the attack, and generated several scoring chances as the half wore on. With 7:30 remaining in the game, Tapia punched in a long centering pass from senior Andres Montealegre to put the Cougars up for good.

Dimit was cheered both by his team’s response to being being down for the first time in 2017, as well as the squad’s more consistent play in the second half. He was also impressed with Tapia, who now leads all Cougars scorers on the year with four goals.

Tapia credited the team’s focus on “passing a lot and moving around” for generating his scoring chances in the second half.

“We moved as a team, and eventually I just finished the shots,” he said. He also cited teamwork and contributions from many different players as key factors in outcome.

“We had a lot of injuries on the roster, and other people were busy,” the junior forward said of his team’s challenges in the narrow victory. “We just had to step up and do what we had to do. Be energetic. Keep each other up. Work together. That’s what we do best.”

Dimit was also happy to see his younger players get some quality playing time. Two of the JV players, Martin and Haratsaris, saw significant playing time, as did sophomore Austin Borncamp, who swung up earlier in the season, but had yet to get into a game. Meanwhile, forward Jared Osteen, the team’s sole sophomore starter, made the most of his expanded role in the absence of senior forwards Davin Bala and Dylan Campbell, with an assist on in the second half.

“He’s comfortable with some of these guys that we swung, because he’s the youngest player that we have,” explained Dimit. “He’s got good chemistry with them, so he kind of gets to be the leader on the field when they’re on there, and it’s really good to see him start to shine. He’s a great player.”

The Cougars head out on the road against Peak to Peak Charter on Sep. 12, and then are back home against Green Mountain on Sep. 16.

9/5 Niwot 0, Skyline 0 2 OT

Cougars (3-0-1) 0 0 0 0 — 0

Falcons (1-0-2) 0 0 0 0 — 0

Goalies (Min-OT Mins-Goals allowed-Saves) — Mario Munoz (80-20-0-10)

9/9 — Niwot 3, Lewis Palmer 2

Rangers (0-6) 2 0 — 0

Cougars (4-0-1) 1 2 — 3

Goals — Jonathan Jimenez-Flores, Manual Tapia (2)

Assists — Andres Montealegre, Alejandro Torcello, Jared Osteen

Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — Mario Munoz (80-2-3)

 

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