The Panthers won a hard fought and close final game in the Southern Nevada Kickoff Tournament against a very good Faith Lutheran side to become tournament champions for the first time. The starting line up: Huckfeldt, Jarvis, Nogues, Lloyd, Olenak, Stephens, Ruffer, Stevenson, Robledo-Matadamas, Vogel, Montoya.
The Panthers continued with their successful 4-3-3 line up that had served them well so far during the tournament. However, this system requires the outside attackers to do their share of defending and the midfield trio to dominate possession. The Panthers failed to do these things for long spells during the game which made their task much harder. The Panthers started very well and had Faith Lutheran pinned back in the final third for most of the first 10 minutes. Although a Panthers goal seemed imminent during this period, the Faith Lutheran defense proved difficult to crack. Tim Stephens went close with an excellent left footed volley that the Faith goalkeeper did well to turn acrobatically over the crossbar. A deflected shot from Tanner Stevenson went just wide and numerous other attempts were blocked. Faith finally began to get some traction and held possession well, although they were unable to make any meaningful attempts on goal. The Panthers seemed to favor the “Hollywood” ball rather then constructive build up at times and turned over possession too cheaply and too frequently. Teagan Jarvis was withdrawn 10 minutes before half time with a dead leg. Half time 0-0.
The second half continued much as the first with the Panthers underperforming compared to previous tournament outings. However, they showed that they are certainly a second half team by clinching the victory. It is the sign of a good team that they can find a way to win when not performing at their best. Starting line up: Huckfeldt, Tonks, Nogues, Lloyd, Olenak, Stephens, Hoxhalli, Stevenson, Manthey, Vogel, Robledo-Matadamas.
After early exchanges, Presten Manthey sent a diagonal through ball inside the right full back and try as he may Henry Robledo-Matadamas could not quite make it before the keeper. A pattern was set with Faith controlling possession, failing to get behind the Panther’s defense, and the Panthers counter attacking quickly. This led to the Faith goalkeeper making a string of good saves from Mikey Vogel, Manthey, and Antonio Gomez. Fifteen minutes into the second half the Panthers finally opened the scoring. In a rare spell of sustained attack, Vogel chipped the ball into the penalty area for the advanced Stevenson who nodded the ball down into the path of Manthey. Manthey made no mistake with the finish leaving the keeper with no chance. The previous pattern continued but the Panther’s counter attacks were proving more and more dangerous. A number of good chances were squandered by a combination of poor finishing, good Faith defending, or a bad bounce on the poor field. Vogel was released down the left by Zach Ruffer after an excellent run across the defender. He beat the defender, advanced into the penalty area at the end line and his cross was met by Tim Stephens who was steaming in to the area but who could only blaze the chance over the crossbar. The Panther’s inability to get the second goal was becoming worrying since one slip up in defense could cause a tie and penalty shoot out. With 10 minutes remaining, Bryan Montoya was brought on in a central striker role for Vogel and his impact was immediate. Faith decided to play a goal kick out from the back. Manthey put pressure on the receiving defender who tried to return the ball to the goalkeeper only to take a poor touch resulting in the back pass falling short. Montoya pounced quickly on the ball and he dribbled round the keeper to slot the ball into the empty net. The Panthers had the extra insurance they needed and it almost proved necessary when Faith was rewarded a very soft penalty with one minute remaining. A Faith midfielder had made an impressive dribble into the box. Gomez who had fallen back to support his full back made a challenge and played the ball. The Faith player seemed to trip over the ball but went down very easily. The referee showed no hesitation in giving a penalty kick. However, Hudson Huckfeldt showed that he was up to the task as he saved the penalty down to his right and earned his fourth consecutive shutout. The Panthers easily saw out the remainder of the game to become tournament champions. Final score 2-0.
This tournament was excellent preparation for the season and has allowed the coaches to see all of the players in a competitive environment, try positional options, and settle on a starting line up. One thing is for sure, this a strong and deep squad of players. We have no weaknesses amongst the group, which allows us flexibility and redundancy. It was also nice to establish a winning habit. However, we must not become complacent. In fact, no Southern Nevada Kickoff Tournament champion has ever gone on to become the state champion. If we want to be the first to achieve this we must not rest on our laurels or become complacent. We need to continue to working hard and striving to improve, because you can be sure that our opponents will doing just that.