Rockies reprise versus Wawasee
WARSAW — What a difference a week makes. Actually, in Plymouth’s case it only took five days.
The Rockies entered Monday night’s Class 2A Warsaw Sectional opener with NLC rival Wawasee with the memory of last Thursday’s 3-2 loss to the Warriors still fresh in their memory.
In an echo of the two team’s nip-tuck contest in their first go-round, the Rockies and the Warriors remained knotted in a 0-0 stalemate at the half at Warsaw. But Cesar Aguilar struck twice in the 47th and 69th minutes, Gonzalo Figueroa tacked on an additional insurance goal in the 74th minute, and Plymouth held on for the 3-1 reprisal victory.
The Rockies now advance to play another conference foe Wednesday, when they match up with NorthWood at 7 p.m. following an earlier sectional semifinal between the host Tigers and Culver Military Academy scheduled for 5 p.m.
“I think it’s tough when you beat a team once, and then they’ve got to come back and they’ve got to beat us a second time. I think that puts a little more pressure on them,” said Plymouth boys soccer coach Josh Martin. “I think we knew the first time we played them we had a couple of letdowns and they worked for it but we gave up some easy opportunities for them.
“We’ve been looking to finish games all year, and we always say that the second season’s the most important. We’re starting to kind of find our potential now.”
Aguilar scored twice in Plymouth’s first meeting with Wawasee last week, and he found success again against the Warrior backfield Monday, as Blake Milliser skipped a long chip into the midfield Aguilar’s way, and the junior striker dribbled deep inside the Warriors box to finish off his first goal of the night in the 47th minute.
The Rockies held on to that 1-0 advantage until Aguilar struck again in the 69th minute when Ronaldo Garcia served him a lead pass up the middle of the field, and he beat a pair of defenders with an athletic sliding drive that pushed Plymouth out to a 2-0 lead.
“Cesar, he’s a poacher. He’s always looking to get in behind, and that’s when he’s at his best when he’s got the ball at his feet and he’s running at defenders,” said Martin.
“He brought it. (Aguilar) surprised me. Last game I think he was a little bit more quiet,” said Wawasee head coach Jordan Sharp. “This game he brought it, and I was impressed and a little disappointed that he brought it tonight, but that happens. I thought we did our best; they just really took it to our guys. We sometimes had two guys on them and they brought it around us, but they were pretty dynamic and the ball fell their way.”
Figueroa, who just became eligible to compete with Plymouth, and Clay Marshall, who only recently got healthy again after a long stint with injury, celebrated their respective returns to the pitch Monday combining for a goal as Marshall dribbled deep into the corner and served Figueroa a perfect cross that the senior one-touched inside the near post to put the game out of reach in the 74th minute.
“Gonzalo Figueroa, he hasn’t been able to play most of the season; he just became eligible when the six weeks were up with grades. He’s a real slick player, and Clay Marshall he’s real dangerous out on the wings. He was hurt for a big chunk of the season, and when he’s got the ball out there defenders are not real sure what to do because he’ll try to beat you in the box, and that time he just got his head up and served the ball, and Gonzalo just made a nice one-touch finish,” Martin explained.
Rasmus Rich scored on a long chip with a little over three minutes remaining on the clock, but it was too little, too late for Wawasee as Zach Lee finished with 11 saves in goal to help Plymouth hold off the Warriors after the Rockies went up 2-0 but left the door open in the two teams’ first meeting last Thursday.
“We told our kids we need to make sure when we got a lead that we needed to punch in another goal, a second or third goal to kind of put the nail in the coffin and put extra pressure on them, and our guys were up to the challenge to do that tonight,” Martin said.
“The ball just didn’t fall our way, and that’s unfortunate, but I think our guys played amazing soccer. It was the best I’ve seen them play yet,” said Sharp.
“What I was excited to see is that we got scored on first and throughout the whole season it’s deflated us; we’ve died. Tonight there was fight in us… We played the full 80, and it was absolutely exciting to watch.”
Wawasee closes the year at 6-9-3 while Plymouth improves to a 5-10-2 mark. The Rockies will face another familiar foe in NorthWood Wednesday, a team that Plymouth stopped 2-1 last Tuesday.
“We faced them earlier in the season, and it was a battle that got real close. They hit the post a couple of times; our keeper Lee made some really nice saves to keep them from coming back. I think that’s going to be a super physical game. They’ve got some real athletic kids and two or three kids that are real strong on top of the ball… and we’ve got to make sure we keep track of those guys,” said Martin.
“I think if we offensively play like we played tonight — I thought we moved the ball really well, we combined up the flanks and then when we played direct at the box on our through balls we looked pretty dangerous and pretty good — if we can keep that up I think we’ve got a good chance.”
• PLYMOUTH 3, WAWASEE 1
At Warsaw Sectional
P – Cesar Aguilar, 47th minute
P – Cesar Aguilar (Ronaldo Garcia), 69th minute
P – Gonzalo Figueroa (Clay Marshall), 74th minute
W – Rasmus Rich, 77th minute
Shots on goal: Plymouth 11, Wawasee 12
Saves: Plymouth (Zach Lee) 11, Wawasee (Korey Knafel) 8
Record: Plymouth 5-10-2, Wawasee 6-9-3 (final)