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Panthers Take Bite out of Eagles
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Saturday, January 28, 2012
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Andrew Velasquez made an accurate penalty kick in the first half and an accurate crossing pass in the second.

That was enough to give Pioneer Valley’s boys soccer team a 2-1 win over Arroyo Grande in a PAC 7 League game at Arroyo Grande’s Doug Hitchen Stadium on a blustery Friday night.

After someone knocked down Panther Juan Robles in the penalty box, Velasquez drilled the penalty kick smack into the middle of the net for the tying goal in the 33rd minute of the first half. In the 21st minute of the second, Velasquez got the ball to an open Alexander Perez, who knocked the ball in from about 15 yards out.

“I was running (with the ball) down the right side,” Velasquez said afterward.

“I looked up and I saw (Perez).”

Perez said, “The defense made an error. They left the ball there (after the Velasquez pass), and I shot it for the score,” from about 15 yards away into the dead center of the net.

Brian Wright headed the ball into the Panthers’ goal in the 24th minute, giving the Eagles the first score of the game.

Pioneer Valley moved to 11-5-2, including 5-2-1 in the PAC 7, with its second win over Arroyo Grande this year. The Panthers, with 16 league points, stayed a point behind second-place Paso Robles. First-place San Luis Obispo was off Friday night.

The fourth-place Eagles, who are the defending league champions, dropped to 9-10-3, 3-4-1. Their lead over fifth-place Righetti shrank to a point. The top four league teams at the end of the regular season are guaranteed playoff spots.

Arroyo Grande has beaten Righetti twice this year.

The Panthers and Eagles have four league games left this season. Pioneer Valley hosts St. Joseph at 5:30 p.m. next Wednesday. Arroyo Grande plays at Atascadero at the same time.

Velasquez said, “We had two tough (league) losses. I think the team is playing well heading into the next four (league) games.”

“Hopefully we can win the next four,” said Perez.

Defender Armando Bautista helped preserve Pioneer Valley’s win with some good  plays late. He cleared the ball out of the middle of the penalty box to foil a promising Eagles possession with about nine minutes left.

He cleared out a last-ditch Eagles throw-in from about the same spot. Time ran out a few seconds later.

The Eagles controlled the ball for the balance of the game, particularly in the first half, but they couldn’t capitalize on that possession advantage.

“Dominated the game,” but couldn’t score enough, a disappointed Arroyo Grande coach Brad Bowdey said afterward.

“That’s been the story of our season. I’m puzzled. The team is working very hard. We certainly had our opportunities tonight. They took advantage of theirs.”

One Arroyo Grande shot in the first half hit the top post. Another clanged off the right one. After that one, the Eagles’ Joshua Wilkins couldn’t quite put in the rebound shot.

The Eagles’ Angel Rodriguez worked himself open for a shot in the penalty box in the second half, but his try went over the top post.

“(The Panthers) had, what, five shots?,” said Bowdey. Unofficially, Eagles goal keeper Alex Montero made five saves and Panthers goalie Miguel Mendez had eight.

Bowdey said, “They made a penalty shot and a little cross, and they were done.”

The Panthers were also winners.  

Kenny Cress / Sports Writer / SM Times / 1/27/12

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