BARSTOW • In sports, it's never a good idea to underestimate one's opponent, and doing so may have cost the Barstow boys soccer team a win in its latest game.
The Aztecs hosted Burroughs for a Desert Sky League match on Tuesday. It was Senior Night, and the squad got together with the 12th-graders and their parents at halftime, as coach Terri Peralta wished her departing players the best of luck. Unfortunately, the game didn't go as well, as Barstow was blanked, 2-0.
Both teams are under .500, but the Aztecs seemed confident that they could beat the Burros...a bit too confident, as it turned out.
"You can't come out and take another team for granted. We misjudged our opponent; we thought we had them before the game started," said Peralta. "We didn't play our game, and every player on this team knows it. We had our opportunities, but didn't convert."
No one scored in the first half, but both sides had chances. Aztecs keeper Humburto Zamora has had a fine season, and was put to the test right away, knocking aside a hard shot off a free kick just minutes in. Barstow's David Saldana also came close, but his head shot off a corner kick was also caught. It remained a scoreless tie at halftime.
The Burros got on the board about five minutes into the second. After the Aztecs were called for a handball in the box, Radad Hamden made good on the penalty kick. A short time later, Ben Ville's bouncing shot found the net, for the Burros' two tallies.
There was lots of midfield back-and-forth volleying and not an abundance of shots, for either team, in the contest. The Aztecs sometimes made a pass too many and missed their scoring opportunity, and finished with a total of five shots. Zamora had six saves on seven shots.
"We didn't take advantage of our opportunities, and we missed a penalty shot. It can be hard to recover from those mistakes," said Peralta, referencing her team's chance to score when Burroughs was whistled for a push in the box late in the first half. "But even with that, you have to keep your composure. This was disappointing, coming off a big 1-1 tie (against Granite Hills) in our last game. We played great in that game, we played at the level I know we can play, and then this.
"Burroughs is a lot like we are. They're not given the respect they should from other teams, and they want to win bad."
Things went more smoothly when the team gathered at the half to honor its eight seniors. Kgosi Kesiilue, Vincente Islas, Marcos Lara, Gabriel Castillo, Paul Hafely, Estavan Lopez, Saldana and Zamora took the field with their parents as coach Peralta said a few words about each of her departing players.
"I'm excited for the seniors and the next chapter in their lives," she said after the game. "When you lose eight players, you're losing so much experience and maturity. That's a lot we'll be missing next year."
The seniors will definitely leave a hole to be filled, perhaps none more than Zamora, who his coach called "the best keeper in the league." Still, she's optimistic about next year's squad, who, despite the missing players, should be in decent shape.
"We'll still have a lot of talent, and the young players should be more confident and mature next year," said Peralta. "And there are some really good players coming up from JV."
As this season winds to a close, there are two games remaining. The final home game is Thursday against Victor Valley, with the last match being on the road at Silverado next Wednesday.