The Rancho Cotate Cougars and Santa Rosa Panthers women’s soccer teams clashed in the latest installment of their budding rivalry. These two teams know each other very well and it’s clear there was a little extra motivation on each sideline because of this. This is the type of rivalry Sonoma County and members of the Rohnert Park community aren’t familiar with. The Cougars and Panthers entered Wednesday tied for the North Bay League lead and with a 3-0 victory the Panthers moved one game ahead of the Cougars.
For those who aren’t familiar with these two teams, here’s the synopsis. The Cougars and Panthers split the season series last year one to one, with both teams winning their home games. For this reason, you’d think both of them would make the postseason, however, this wasn’t the case.
“The Panthers made the playoffs because they had a win against a team the Count of our game,” Chasco said. “We tell our girls to continue to play their game, stay vigilant at that and if, at any moment, a team takes them out of playing their game, there’s a great chance we will lose.”
When asked why he thought the Cougars didn’t play up to par, he said it was because of the officials. It’s unusual for a coach to blame the officials for a loss, but any one in attendance could see there were quite a few questionable calls against the Cougars. The one that takes the cake is the foul called on goalkeeper Kalia Misi, which awarded the Panthers a penalty kick.
From live looks, it appeared Misi dove for the ball, knocked it away and the Santa Rosa player tripped over her. In soccer the goalkeeper has the right for the ball and making contact with an attacker isn’t a foul in most cases.
This was the key play of the game because it gave the Panthers a second goal in the first half and it happened less than a minute before halftime. That play was sort of the nail in the Cougars’ coffin.
“I feel I have to put it on the referees why we were taken out of our game,” Chasco said. “On the initial call that turned into a penalty kick, we just firmly believe it wasn’t.”
Though Chasco believes it wasn’t a penalty, he knows arguing with the referees won’t change anything, so it’s best to let it go and play through it.
The reason Chasco said that play was huge is because the Cougars have a difficult time bouncing back from bad calls or mistakes. When a team is trying to work through staying present and not letting bad calls get to them, having something like a penalty result in a goal right before the half is a hard pill to swallow.
Another reason it was big is because of the quality of the opponent. The Panthers are one of the best teams in the county, so falling behind 2-0 is a difficult hill to climb.
Chasco knows his girls have some work to do with overcoming adversity. He pointed out how the Cougars start pressing and try to come back all at once, instead of playing their game. Chasco believes the Cougars can beat Santa Rosa if they play their game.
“We had an awesome game against Ukiah, we played our game, stayed confident in our game and we ended up beating Ukiah 1-0.” Chasco said. “We know when Santa Rosa played them it was a tie game 0-0. So, the possibility of beating Rosa is there, it’s just the girls need to believe.”
Though the Cougars came up short, there were still players who stood out to the coaching staff.
Goalkeeper Kalia Misi, defensive midfield Alessi Vandranwale, winger Yasmin Garcia and Nina Mencarini, the other winger, didn’t get enough opportunities because the Cougars weren’t switching the field enough, according to Chasco.
The Cougars know they have to win the remaining game on their schedule to give them a chance at the postseason and tying Santa Rosa for the league title. It’s not going to be easy, but Chasco and his staff believe this team has what it takes, the girls just have to believe in themselves.