PRESTON — To their credit, the Indians refused to fold after facing a 3-0 deficit.
Nevertheless, Preston’s inability to consistently put shots on frame, coupled with a pair of defensive mistakes, was ultimately too much to overcome. Fifth-seeded Canyon Ridge scored twice in a 13-minute stretch of the first half and struck again in the 59th minute en route to a 3-2 road win over fourth-seeded Preston in the 4A District 4-5 Tournament on a cold and windy Wednesday.
The Indians scored twice in the final seven or so minutes to make things very interesting. Additionally, Preston forward Jr Murillo had a goal whistled back on an offside call during that timespan.
“Our struggle all season long has been showing up at game time ready to go, and it’s the same thing that happened today,” Preston head coach Kira Matthews said. “We played a solid 15 minutes at the end of the game ... but we just didn’t show up until then. It takes us getting pissed off about how the game’s going or something to that extent for us to find some momentum and really start going. (And then) we finally hit that point where our intensity finally changes and when it does, we play phenomenal, lights out, just amazing soccer. These boys have all the ability in the world. They’ve just got to come out (and play well) in the beginning.”
Preston’s slow start proved costly against a streaking Canyon Ridge side that has won four straight matches and six of its last seven. In the process, the Riverhawks (9-5-1) avenged a 2-1 loss to the Indians (8-4-3) at home during the regular season, plus terminated Preston’s six-match unbeaten streak.
Alimasi Jamari recorded a brace for the Riverhawks, while Alvaro Aguinaco capitalized on a turnover by the Indians deep in their own territory. Aguinaco’s shot drilled the underside of the crossbar and appeared to barely trickle over the goal line. It was ruled a goal, but a Canyon Ridge player buried the rebound just in case.
Preston pared its deficit to 3-1 in the 73rd minute on a well-taken left-footed strike by Kadin Reese from 15 yards out. The hosts dented the scoreboard again four minutes later when Cooper Lazcanotegui got free at the back post and finished from point-blank range.
“It felt really good because it was my first goal ever, because I usually play on defense, so playing wing was a new (experience), and so scoring was really cool,” Lazcanotegui said.
Preston goalkeeper Zach Burnett kept the hosts within striking distance of Canyon Ridge with a spectacular diving save to his right late in the match.
“We just need to play with that same fire from the get-go, instead of the last 15 minutes, and then we should win almost every game,” Lazcanotegui said. “This is a good team.”
The Indians had a few dangerous scoring opportunities in the first half, but only managed to put one of their five shots on goal. Additionally, Preston was off target on its first five shots of the second half.
Murillo nearly scored in the opening half, as did teammate Ramon Rodriguez. Rodriguez’s long distance effort on a free kick was parried away by the Canyon Ridge keeper for a Preston corner kick. Also in the 40 first minutes of action, Murillo played an inviting ball across the 6-yard box, but the Indians were unable to get on the end of it.
Preston was without three-year starting center back Kollin Wing, who is currently sidelined by a concussion. Wing’s presence was definitely missed against the Riverhawks.
“Him and Ty (Miller) have a connection back there,” Matthews said. “They know when to step, they know when to drop and pull, and they read each other really well, and then you’re worrying about one less person on that backline to try and direct. And so Kollin’s solid and it will be nice to get him back when he’s ready.”
Preston will now host ninth-seeded Minico in an elimination match on Saturday. The Indians swept the Spartans (5-1 and 3-0) during the regular season.