Douglas boys pull out 4-4 tie
Wooster defeated Douglas, 3-0
Coming into its final non-league against Incline on Sept. 11, the Douglas High boys soccer team was looking at a record that was winless with two ties and three losses.
Since then, the Tigers have gone 4-1-1 and are right in the thick of the Sierra League playoff picture after rallied to salvage a 4-4 tie at home Wednesday against Damonte Ranch.
Douglas (3-3-2 league, 4-4-3 overall) showed perseverance when seniors Connor Loazano and Javi Vega combined to score two goals inside the final seven minutes. Vega’s goal came in the final minute to tie the score as the Tigers remained unbeaten in their last six games and picked up one point in the league standings.
“It’s been a big turnaround, especially compared to last year,” said senior goalkeeper Dennis Gingrich, who has registered three shutouts in the team’s last six games. “There’s always more to work on, but we’re getting better and better … just keeping our heads straight and keeping the defense together. That’s what wins games.”
The Tigers have already surpassed their win total from last year and they have scored 15 goals in 11 games, well ahead of the nine they tallied during a 2-14-1 season in 2016.
“The kids didn’t quit and I was happy to see that. We’re playing well right now, but we still have a long way to go,” said coach Chase Zumpft, whose Tigers were coming off a 1-0 win at home on Saturday against Bishop Manogue.
“There are still a few things we need to clean up, but for the most part, it was really good,” Lozano added.
The Tigers overcame a 4-2 deficit when Lozano scored his first varsity career goal with about six minutes to go and then Vega converted a free kick before the final whistle.
Lozano provided a spark in the final 15 minutes after he shifted from his position on the defensive line to play on top.
“Connor is a utility player who fills in wherever I need him,” Zumpft said. “He’s got surprising speed, he pesters people, and today, he got one in.”
Vega collected his third assist of the day when he drove toward the net and dished off to Lozano on the right side.
“It was one-on-one and he passed it to me,” Lozano said. “No one was on me … all I did was an instep.”
The game was in stoppage time when Vega made good on a scoring opportunity of his own after drawing a foul near the top of the box. The fourth-year varsity veteran calmly struck a grounder to the right corner of the net to make it 4-4.
“We should have got the win, to be honest,” Vega said. “But it’s better than losing. It gave us a point.”
Andres Larios collected his first goal of the season to tie the score 1-all midway through the first half. Brian Cervantes scored in the final minute before halftime to put the Tigers on top, 2-1. Vega assisted on both of those goals.
The Tigers appeared to take their foot off the accelerator early in the second half, however, as Damonte Ranch (1-5-1 league, 2-5-2 overall) turned that halftime deficit into a 4-2 lead with three quick goals.
“We put ourselves in a great spot and then we just gave it up,” Zumpft said. “Lack of focus or organization, I don’t know what happened. We need to play the entire game at the same consistency.”
Gingrich has turned in shutout performances against Manogue, Reno (1-0 win on Sept. 20) and Incline (2-0 win on Sept. 11).
The Tigers, who played at Wooster on Saturday, will continue their quest for a berth in the playoffs Wednesday when they visit Galena, followed by a home game on Saturday against arch rival and league-leading Carson.
Douglas has only made one appearance in the boys soccer postseason since 2009 — and that was during the 2015 season.
Four teams will represent the Sierra League in the region tournament, which is scheduled to begin on Oct. 31 (the semifinals and finals will be played on Nov. 2 and 4 at Spanish Springs).
“The potential is there for us,” Zumpft said about taking on the North’s top teams. “The kids are starting to believe it’s within the realm of possibility.”