BARSTOW • The Aztecs soccer squad has shown steady improvement this season. Still, going up against the top team in the league is never easy.
As the season winds down, Silverado came to town and left with a 3-1 win, in Monday's Desert Sky League match at Barstow High School.
Silverado is in first place in the DSL, and went into Monday's game with 11 wins on the season. The Aztecs did their best to keep pace with the speedy Hawks, and for the most part were successful. It was a few of the little things that did Barstow in, said head coach Terri Peralta.
"We didn't possess the ball in the middle, that's where we lost," she said. "They had better ball control and touches. We had our opportunities, we just weren't finishing."
The Aztecs had control for the first few minutes and took the game's first shot in the first minute, as Guillermo Alvarado's offering grazed the crossbar. Once the Hawks got possession, they mostly controlled the action. They didn't take a lot of shots, but made the most of their opportunities. The visitors got two goals in the first half, by Daniel Lopez and Anthony Jimenez, both coming off free kicks.
The Aztecs cut the deficit to one midway through the second half. This tally, too, was off a kick, taken by Alejandro Estrada. Richard Ebel was in position to get a head on the ball, and directed it into the net, making it a 2-1 game.
Barstow did its best in the next few minutes to get the tying goal. The way the Aztecs scrapped with the Hawks was the most impressive thing about the game, said coach Peralta.
"They always come to play, that's the good thing about this team," she said. "They're a good group of guys who always give their all."
The Hawks added an insurance goal down the stretch. With Aztec keeper Zohar Mejia off to the side after making a deflection save, the ball landed at the foot of Silverado's Silvano Gonzalez, who chipped it over the line.
With a lot of back-and-forth play, neither team took many shots, five for the Aztecs and seven for the Hawks.
There's only one game left and the Aztecs know they won't be playing in the postseason. That knowledge hasn't affected their effort down the stretch.
"We've taken tremendous strides this season and we played with a lot of intensity today," said Peralta. "We've worked hard on defending and finishing. At times it's been frustrating looking at our record, but the guys always play hard and that's all I can ask. Silverado is a beast of a team and we stayed with them."
Aztecs fans have one more chance to see their team this season, and bid farewell to its seniors. The year's final game is on Wednesday at 3 p.m. against Granite Hills, which is in third place in the DSL, just ahead of Barstow. The 13 Aztec seniors will be recognized for their service at halftime.