Soccer Prepares to Honor Seniors and Host Lancers

Weston Ranch kept their VOL title hopes alive by defeating Central Catholic 2-1 last Thursday, but it came at a price. The Cougars will enter Tuesday’s big match with East Union without two of their best goal scorers, senior Elvin Bolanos and Sophomore Aaron Silva. Both Bolanos and Silva will be ineligible for competition due to an accumulation of yellow cards and a red card, thus disqualifying them from playing on Tuesday.

The Cougars (7-1-1 in VOL) will take on the Lancers (5-1-3 in VOL) in a match where the league title could be on the line at the most, and playoff seedings at the least. Weston Ranch has clinched a playoff berth, but need to win out to secure the VOL crown. Currently, the Cougars sit atop the VOL, but following closely are Oakdale (7-1-2), East Union, and Sierra (5-3-1). In an ironic twist and as fate would have it, the Cougars have to play all three in the final three weeks. And, the Cougars could possibly finish 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th should they stumble along the way.

Weston Ranch is no stranger to adversity. The team has had to mount several second-half comebacks this year, and they have had to overcome player deficits before. But it is this resiliency Coach Francisco Cisneros expects the Cougars to showcase on Tuesday against the Lancers.

“At the moment, the thought is to possibly bring a couple of players up from JV to help,” Cisneros told The Prowl when asked how the Cougars plan to make up for the losses of Bolanos and Silva. “Bottom line, though, somebody else has to step up. We’ve done it all year, so I’m pretty confident someone will rise to the occasion.”

One of those “someones” is goalkeeper Francisco Vega. When the Cougars aren’t scoring in bunches (they lead the VOL in scoring with 52 goals), they rely on Vega to come up with big saves as he defends the Cougar net. Thursday’s match against Central Catholic saw Vega make a huge save on a Raider penalty kick, ultimately securing the win for Weston Ranch. Vega had two saves the whole night, but it was enough to help his teammates when the scoring was unusually low for the Cougars.

“Francisco Vega made two season-saving saves last night. And a PK save. With his outstanding play, he kept our league title hopes alive. It’s a lonely place in the PK box, and he had a moment where he delivered for the team when we needed him the most,” beamed Cisneros about Vega’s contribution.

Two more Cougars who will have to step up are seniors Kevin Urrutia-Hernandez and Bryan Rodriguez. After Bolanos, who leads the Cougars with 14 goals, Urrutia-Hernandez and Rodriguez are the second and third-leading scorers with 9 and 8 goals respectively. Offensively, the Cougars will need more production from them to pick up the slack and cover the missing players.

“Elvin is our leading scorer with 14, and Aaron is also one of attacking threats with seven goals,” Cisneros said. “This isn’t the first time we are missing guys for a big game. From losing Edgar Molina for the entire year with a knee injury early in the preseason to not having Jesus Vega against Oakdale, we’ve always managed to pick each other up when needed the most.”

So, the stage is set for some terrific drama. A Cougar win most certainly puts them in line for a title with two games left. A loss on Tuesday means the final two games, Oakdale and the finale at Sierra, could mean the Cougars have to win both to secure the title. To top off the drama, Tuesday’s game against East Union is also Senior Night, so the stakes will be high as Weston Ranch could play in front of their biggest crowd to date, and the Cougars will have the added pressure of performing well in front of a large audience. It should be a fun night.