It’s been said that the best defense is a good offense, and that philosophy worked well for the Palo Verde boys soccer team in the first half of Saturday’s Class 5A Southern League championship game.
The second-seeded Panthers jumped to a three-goal lead in the first 25 minutes and held off top-seeded Coronado to claim a 4-3 upset victory. Both teams advance to Friday’s state semifinals in Carson City.
Senior Justin Geracci scored two goals for Palo Verde (17-4-4), including the eventual game-winner with six minutes left to play.
“We came in wanting to keep the pace and dictate play,” said Panthers coach Scott Hunt, whose team was 0-1-1 against the Cougars heading into Saturday. “We wanted to share the ball and not be selfish.”
The strategy worked well for the first 30 minutes, as Robert Sarkisian scored in the 14th minute on an acrobatic kick from 15 yards out on an assist from Preston Mendenhall. Geracci scored his first goal minutes later on a penalty kick, and Evan Odle added a score to make it 3-0 when Coronado goalkeeper Logan Pierce fumbled a catch in front of the net in the 25th minute.
But Coronado (18-2-4) wasn’t ready to call it quits.
The Cougars scored a goal late in the first half and another in the second minute of the second half to cut the deficit to 3-2.
“That’s not how we wanted to start the second half,” Hunt said. “We know Coronado scores goals. They score a lot of goals. They’ll put the ball away when you give them a chance.”
But the Panthers regained momentum midway through the second half, extending their lead to 4-2 when Geracci scored on a late free kick from 20 yards out.
“I’m not a captain, but the whole year I’ve had a leadership role,” said Geracci, who added that it was the first free-kick goal of his career. “I have confidence, and I want to step up for my team.”
He curled his kick just inside the right crossbar ahead of a diving Pierce to give Palo Verde a more comfortable advantage.
“That was definitely the decisive kick,” said Hunt, who noted the score restored confidence to his squad.
The goal was needed because Coronado’s John Vento scored four minutes later when a ball ricocheted off the top crossbar and wound up in front of the goal.
“As good as Coronado is, that’s what will happen when you fall asleep,” Hunt said. “They will capitalize.”
But the Panthers recovered, controlling the clock and the remainder of the game to get their first win against the Cougars.
Hunt said his team is where it needs to be heading into the state tournament.
“This is when we wanted to peak,” he said. “We’re really hitting that peak these last couple of games. We’re hoping we can continue that success.”
— No. 1M SLAM Academy 6, No. 1D Virgin Valley 3: At Virgin Valley, the Bulls (18-1) broke open a close game in the second half and rolled to a win over the Bulldogs (16-2-1) in the Southern Region championship game.
Both teams advance to the state semifinals, which will be played Friday at Cristo Rey.
— No. 1D Foothill 4, No. 1M Centennial 1: At Foothill, the Falcons (21-0) led 2-0 at halftime and rolled to a victory over the Bulldogs (18-4-2) in the Class 4A Southern Region championship game.
Aly Papka, Tianna Hunsaker, Ava Bertolani and Isabelle Simoneau scored for Foothill, which also got a solid game from goalkeeper Brooke Wert. Both teams advance to the state semifinals Friday in Carson City.
No. 1M Pahrump Valley, No. 1D Virgin Valley 0: At Virgin Valley, Andrea Sauceda-Amador scored the game’s lone goal to lead the Trojans (22-1-2) past the Bulldogs (14-2-2) in the Southern Region championship game.
Both teams advance to the state semifinals Friday at Cristo Rey.
Contact Jeff Wollard at firstname.lastname@example.org.