July 10, 2020
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Cougars dazzle the spectators

  • Alex Sandoval, senior at Rancho Cotate High School, takes a flying leap as he kicks the ball down the field during their game against Windsor High School. Rancho hosted Windsor at Cougar Stadium on Thurs., Jan. 23. After a battle, Sandoval was able to score the first goal of the game. Rancho defeated Windsor 2-0. Their next home game is against Healdsburg High School Feb. 3. Photo by Jane Peleti

By: Paul Matli
January 31, 2020

Every coach is hoping for a game like Thursday’s. A game where everything goes right, the team executes the game plan flawlessly and everyone is relaxed. This is the dream for coaches, but it very rarely happens. For Head Coach Nick Rogers and the Rancho Cotate Men’s Soccer team it happened.

The Cougars defeated the Windsor Jaguars 2-0 to improve to 4-6--1 and 2-1 in league play. This is their second consecutive win. Those who witnessed the game live, saw a Cougars team playing great on all three levels. The backline, midfield and strikers all performed their roles to perfection. This symmetry is what Coach Rogers has been hoping for all season. On Thursday night he finally got it.

“We’re finally starting to trust each other as a team,” Rogers said. “We are letting the ball do the work, we finished our chances today and the defense did a great job of stepping up and being leaders. The shutout was big for us.”

A reason why the Cougars got off to a slower start is the injury bug. The Cougars lost some players early in the season which forced younger players to have to fill in and play sooner than expected. As the season has progressed on and the Cougars have gotten healthier, it’s easy for the team to start playing better.

“Adversity would be the best word to describe our start,” Rogers said. “We’ve had injuries, people sick, young players having to step up and do roles the seniors normally do. We’ve had much adversity, but our record doesn’t define us as a team. I think many people will look at our record and think we aren’t a good team, but that’s not true. This team can play, and they teach other.”

The biggest reason for the Cougars younger players starting to excel is the work of the Cougars’ captains, Alex Sandoval and Manuel Garcia. Both of them are veterans and are tasked with motivating the younger players. Both Sandoval and Garcia have different leadership styles, but Coach Rogers is very pleased with how his guys are starting to play and the work the captains have done.

“Our captains are finally starting to step up and really lead the young guys,” Rogers said. “We have lots of young guys on the team. The captains were a little apprehensive the first couple games, but they’ve started to buy into being leaders. They understand it’s now do or die for us and we have to step up since every game is going to be a battle.”

According to Rogers, the Cougars enter each game with a blackboard of goals for the night. Rogers said the Cougars accomplished all the goals the coaching staff listed. One of these was to pitch a shutout.

In the Cougars’ home opener, they let in some goals, so the goal for Thursday was to shutout the Jaguars. The Cougars’ back line stepped up and delivered an epic performance all night and made sure coaches wishes became a reality.

Another player who contributed to the Cougars’ win is midfielder and captain, Manuel Garcia. Garcia, along with Alex Sandoval, controlled the middle of the pitch. Garcia credits the work in practice as the reason for the Cougars’ improved play.

“We are really determined and focused in practice working on our craft,” Garcia said. “We’ve really bonded together and play with heart, which has shown the last few games.”

Garcia didn’t want to take credit for the team’s continued growth, instead he credited every player on the roster. He said the Cougars are a team, and everyone knows what their role is. He also said Thursday’s win was one of the best games the Cougars have played all season.

Sandoval agreed with Coach Rogers and Garcia that this win was huge for the Cougars. He also gave insight into his methods towards the younger players.

“We’ve had a rough preseason, just molding our team together, but now it’s all starting to come together,” Sandoval said. “The young players have been working hard at practice, you’ve just got to be on them a little more because they’re more immature. Though once you’re on them, they work hard and come through in the game.”

Sandoval, like Garcia, credited his teammates for creating options for him to pass to and stepping up. To win games everyone needs to play well, and the Cougars did that Thursday night.

The schedule gets harder for the Cougars as they face undefeated Montgomery Tuesday night. The Vikings enter Tuesday undefeated at 14-0. This game will really test how good the Cougars are and how much they’ve grown as a team over the last couple of months.