It was a slow start to the Class 4A bi-district playoffs for the Gainesville Leopards soccer team as it took just a 1-0 lead to halftime.
But the Leopards rediscovered their form in the second half and punched two more goals in the back of the net to claim a 3-0 victory over Lake Worth on Friday, March 26, at Tommy Standridge Stadium in Carrollton.
Head coach Danny Franco knew his team didn’t play up to snuff to begin the game, but once the Leopards relaxed, he said they played like they had throughout the regular season.
“I thought we played well,” Franco said. “You could see the week and a half break in the first half with us not being able to score and put the game away. We dominated and it was a deserving win. We were a little rushed and impatient in the first half. We were forcing early crosses and we don’t usually do that. We weren’t keeping it simple when we had chances to keep the ball moving.”
At halftime, Gainesville led 1-0 after a Miguel Arriaga goal. Franco told his team to relax and hold on to the ball a little longer. In the second half, they strung a few more passes together and it led to more opportunities.
In the second half, the Leopards used two goals from Gabriel Nevarez in the 63rd minute and 68th minute to break the game open.
“Gabriel was getting a little frustrated and he was able to get the goals he deserved,” Franco said. “He was frustrated he wasn’t able to capitalize on the chances he had in the first half. The first goal he had relieved some pressure off him. I thought we always put ourselves in a good spot to create and move, but we’re always dangerous,” Franco said. “
Sophomore goalkeeper Hector Lozano pitched a shutout and while he wasn’t overly tested, Franco said Lozano came up big when needed.
“He’s done really well all season long and it’s always good when they do have one chance that we can trust him, especially with the ball at his feet,” Franco said. “He keeps the ball moving and keeps the offense flowing the entire time. It’s good to know he’s back there for us.”
Lake Worth didn’t have many offensive chances and Franco said that was a credit to the Leopards’ defense for keeping the ball moving.
“They were helping us keep possession and I’m proud of those guys,” Franco said. “The defenders are always prepared when their number is called on.”
Last season’s playoffs never took place for the Leopards as the coronavirus pandemic cut the season off right before the start of the playoffs.
Now that the Leopards have one win under their belts, Franco said they are playing with a purpose.
“Early on, you could see those playoff jitters and we only have two or three guys with playoff experience,” Franco said. “It’s good for them to get this game out of the way and get the pressure off them. Now they know what the intensity is going to be like.”
Gainesville advances to the area round Tuesday, March 30, against Benbrook at Bull Memorial Stadium in Bridgeport.
Reach Patrick Hayslip at email@example.com and Twitter at @PatrickHayslip