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Matadors win physical contest with Yavapai
When the Arizona Western soccer team last met Yavapai, the Matadors' early lead quickly turned into a three-goal deficit.
In the rematch Thursday at the Arizona Western soccer field, the Matadors again had an early lead but this time withstood a ferociously tough Roughrider team for a 3-2 victory over the No. 2 team in the nation in a game featuring seven yellow cards and 39 fouls.
The win secured the Matadors the No. 2 seed in the NJCAA Region I tournament. They'll host a semifinal of the six-team tournament at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Similar to their first meeting, AWC struck first and led 1-0 at half and Yavapai responded early in the second half. But unlike that first meeting, AWC didn't fold — in fact, the Matadors (16-3 overall and Arizona Community College Athletic Conference) needed just 62 seconds for Jordan Evans to score off a deflection in the 51st minute to take a 2-1 lead.
“We need to be psychologically composed,” AWC coach Kenny Dale said. “The thing that happened last time is when we gave up one goal, we just gave up three in 10 minutes. I think this time our guys were a lot more mature and a lot more composed and a lot more focused.”
Six minutes later, Eti Tavares scored on what appeared to be a cross attempt to Francisco Ramirez. The pass came in from the left side and Ramirez blocked the goalie's line of sight, allowing the ball to go into the right side of the net without a redirect from Ramirez and a 3-1 lead.
It proved to be a key goal as Gouedan Halley scored for the Roughriders (19-2, 18-2) scored on an assist from Jonathan Grant with 8:48 left. But the Matadors ran the clock out for the win, just the third in the school's history against the Roughriders.
“We all had our hearts in it,” said Evans of the team's regular-season home finale. “This game, I think, meant the most to us because it was around our home fans. We weren't going to let up, no matter what.”
The Matadors scored in the 23rd minute on an own goal. Evans fired a shot that ended up deflecting off a Roughrider and into the goal. In the 49th minute, Grant tied the game on a perfect cross from Albon Gbapou.
Dale said he felt the Matadors could have had an extra goal or two early in the game.
“I was a little disappointed that we didn't finish more of our chances. We had chance after chance after chance, and we're going to have to finish those chances. That's one thing I'd like to see go better. ... You can't let the adrenaline of the moment run away with you when you're right in front of an empty net. So I was disappointed we didn't have a couple more, to be honest.”
The Roughriders entered the game with a lock on the region's No. 1 seed despite splitting the regular-season series. Should both teams win their home semifinals, they'd meet in Prescott — a city where the Matadors have yet to win.
“Who knows who we'll play down the road?” Dale said. “We put in a little different system and I think the guys really did it well. And we still have a few tricks up our sleeves. We haven't even shown everything yet that we may do. I was impressed with the way we played all over the field.”
AWC's Julio Castillo, Oscar Gonzalez and Hector Romero were called for yellow cards as the team was called for 20 fouls.