The Gainesville Leopards soccer team came away from its 2-0 loss to Wichita Falls on Dec. 29 frustrated offensively.
But as poorly and indecisively as the Leopards played, they put those issues to bed in their next game on Monday, Jan. 5.
Gainesville picked up its first win of the season with a 4-1 victory over former district rival Anna.
“I’m glad the win is out of the way so we’re not trying to find it going into tournament week and they can get that off their back,” head coach Danny Franco said. “It’s always a plus to beat a team like Anna, which used to give us fits in district. It was always us and them battling it out for first and second in district. It was a good confidence booster going into our tournament this weekend.”
Franco said the Leopards dominated possession and were much improved offensively from their loss to Wichita Falls.
“We got up 3-0 in the first 15 to 20 minutes,” Franco said. “It’s a credit to our guys applying pressure, going at them and not being hesitant.”
Gabriel Nevarez and Erick Rios connected for two of the goals with Rios on the receiving end of both of Nevarez’s passes.
“Juan Carranza has been playing really well, so I started him at center back and that allowed me to move Erick to the midfield because with him being the defensive player of the year last year, he is good on the ball, so I wanted to get him in the midfield,” Franco said. “Gabriel has that one-on-one ability and he was able to get crosses into Erick. It’s a credit to Erick being in the right spot at the right time and Gabriel putting us in situations to score.”
Defensively, Franco was excited with how his team played overall, but goals can happen in a flash.
“I thought we played well throughout the game,” Franco said. “We had a mental lapse where we gave the ball away late in the first half. They countered and scored and we did it again in the second half, but Hector [Lozano] was able to make a save. Besides those two situations, I thought they played well and controlled the ball. They were patient and didn’t force anything and they were able to keep Anna in check.”
When Lozano was forced to make saves on corner kicks and free kicks, he had answers for the Anna attack.
Lozano, who was named the keeper of the year in district a season ago, is just a sophomore and has started since midway through the second half of his freshman season. Franco said he has really improved.
“He was on JV last year and when district started I moved him up and he was able to win that spot as a freshman last year,” Franco said. “He played forward growing up, so he has that experience controlling the ball and he makes our lives easier knowing he won’t make a bad pass. He adds reassurance.”
As the Leopards continue their non-district schedule, Franco wants them to continue to minimize their mental lapses.
“We can’t fall asleep when they have the ball and we have to make sure we shift,” Franco said. “Their one goal could have been prevented. They threw it past us and we were chasing. Whenever you’re up 3-0, you still have a job to do. We just have to make sure we clean up those little errors and don’t give the ball away so easily.”