November 30 was a day of firsts. After weeks of preparation, varsity coach Todd Kimble coached his first game with the team, picking up the baton from former coach Patrick Lowney’s five-year legacy. New teammates filled up the bench, including members from the development team — a project created by Kimble — who donned blank white uniforms with purple numbers yet to be printed.

Unfazed by these new conditions, the Matadors seized a victory in the season’s first game, with a score of 2-1 against Gilroy HS.

MVHS started out strong, pressuring on offense and almost scoring within the first two minutes of play. But when the attempted shot fell through, GHS gained control, leading a series of back and forths between the two teams. To counterattack, GHS used lengthy passes compared to MVHS’ tight web. This strategy proved to be unsuccessful, as GHS forwards often didn’t follow up before the goal when necessary. MVHS, on the other hand, kept a tenacious grip on the defense, and senior goalie Daniel Hong caught two coming shots with ease. Within the first 10 minutes, junior Avi Libman made multiple bold advances toward GHS’ half, coming close to a goal each time.

“Usually with a new team … they don’t really know each other, so you get a big mess,” junior Sean Crofut said. “[But] I think today, this team had a lot of really good passing.”

Crofut scored the first goal of the game 20 minutes in, with assists from juniors Dylan Randazzo and Libman. Following the goal, the Mustangs continued to grab at opportunities to advance but were cut short each time by MVHS’ solid defense which, paired with the team’s careful ball placement, paved way for the Matadors’ second goal, made by junior Itay Rabinovich right before the end of the first half.

“We completely dominated,” Rabinovich said. “We had most of the possession, we were up 2-0 at halftime. I felt like we played a really good game. We were structured in the back and the midfield and our forward. We were all working together and we all wanted the win.”

11/30/17: Boys Soccer v. GilroyPhotos by Karen Ma and Elizabeth Han.

With a two-goal lead entering the second half, MVHS began to let their guard down. As the team became overconfident, Kimble began making more frequent player substitutions with the hopes of giving more players minutes and experimenting with the team dynamic.

“We started putting in some subs,” Rabinovich said. “That’s when we conceded the goal. We had 10 minutes where we kind of fell apart, and it took some shouting from coaches, from players, just to regroup and get us back together and get the win.”

Junior Soham Mukherjee believed that the substitutions posed one of the major challenges of the day’s game: an interruption to their initial momentum.

“After getting like a few goals up, we shouldn’t stop,” Mukherjee said. “We should just keep going, pass the ball more instead of panicking because when we panic, we just go right back.”

Although pressure and defense from the Matadors were still resolute, the Mustangs took advantage of the team’s wavering coordination and seized possession of the ball, eventually finding the back of the net, bringing the score to 2-1. Immediately, MVHS realized the game had changed.

“They possessed more of the ball, which obviously led to their goal,” Mukherjee said. “And after it’s 2-1, they had a lot more momentum, because they’re trying to catch up and win. It was harder for us — [they]were on our heels.”

Captain senior Takeshi Ueno defends the ball against Gilroy HS' possession in the second half of the game. Photo by Elizabeth Han.

Captain senior Takeshi Ueno defends the ball against Gilroy HS’ possession in the second half of the game. Photo by Elizabeth Han.

The rest of the game was chaos. Through a series of challenges and fouls, both teams fought aggressively to win the ball. MVHS became impatient with the referee, who, according to Mukherjee, had let the game run about four minutes longer than it should have. But soon after, much to their relief, the referee blew the whistle, signalling the end of the game and a victory for the Matadors.

Throughout the game, as new and old players eased into the season, Kimble bellowed directions from the sidelines — including “I love it when you’re aggressive” at a time of strong offense. The shouts were loud and prominent, enough to squeeze out brief Spanish instructions like “Aquí” from the initially silent coach of the opposition. But Crofut finds Kimble’s yells infrequent, if anything, compared to last year, when former coach Lowney would yell across the field through the entirety of a 90-minute game.

“It’s a different coaching style,” Crofut said. “Both work, but I do like this coaching style better with less shouting and more letting players be creative.”

And with a whole season ahead of them, the team is confident in their abilities. For Rabinovich, the biggest takeaway from this game was the importance of staying focused.

“I feel like in those 10 minutes that we lost it, we kind of just had to have someone with the confidence go just get on the field and … shout and get everyone focused again, and realize it’s not our game until the ref blows the final whistle,” Rabinovich said.

 

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Elizabeth Han is a senior at MVHS and a Design Lead for El Estoque. As a third-year staff member and former Special Report editor, she explores the vast realm of visual storytelling through both art and writing.