GJ seniors close careers with win

Grand Junction’s Marcel Mavangulu leaps over Central’s Juan Carlos Borrayo after a slide tackle Tuesday night in the Tigers’ 3-1 victory.

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Grand Junction’s Marcel Mavangulu leaps over Central’s Juan Carlos Borrayo after a slide tackle Tuesday night in the Tigers’ 3-1 victory.

Grand Junction High School senior soccer forwards Josh Murdock and Marcel Mavangulu got their chance to go out on top Tuesday night, and they took it.

The Tigers’ attack created chances aplenty on senior night, controlling the ball in the middle and attacking thirds of the field on the way to a 3-1 win over Central at Walker Field.

Mavangulu had a handful of near misses, but he did pick up an assist. Mavangulu assisted on the Tigers’ final goal from Murdock, and he created the rebound for Murdock’s first goal of the night with about nine minutes left in the first half.

Murdock picked up an assist on the Tigers’ opening goal when he curled a corner kick into the middle of the penalty box for Colton O’Gara to head in with 11 minutes left in the first half.

It was the Tigers’ midfield, though, that created the most chances for the forwards. In what Grand Junction coach Stephen Latta described as “really a two-versus-two battle,” the center of the Tigers’ midfield pushed the ball forward and slotted through balls for the two forwards. It was atypical of Grand Junction’s normally conservative style of possession.

“We knew that whoever was more relaxed in the middle would find rhythm, and when you have rhythm you can find width,” Latta said. “All of our midfielders were able to win small battles and move the ball forward against a Central team that had some pretty good ball skills in the middle.”

The ability to create offense was something that started late in the season for the Tigers (6-9, 5-5 SWL), and during the final few games of the season, the offense found consistency. Wins over Durango and Montezuma-Cortez, as well as 2-1 losses to playoff contenders Fruita Monument and Montrose, helped give the underclassmen confidence for offseason training, Latta said.

The Tigers are losing four seniors: Murdock, Mavangulu, defender Trian Hawks and midfielder David Mower. They were a big part of the team, but Latta said he’s optimistic about what he saw during the final stretch of league games.

“We carried momentum from game to game and really, more than that, we showed mental toughness,” Latta said. “It’s come down to mental toughness for us a lot this season. If we were scored on, we showed that we can keep it together. If we got a goal, we showed we can stay focused. For guys that are really going through the maturing process, that’s great.”

Murdock said the seniors built a bond playing together, and winning on senior night strengthened that bond.

“Two goals was a great way to end it,” Murdock said. “I kind of wanted more because I was being selfish, but it was great to have a performance like that. It was great to play against Central, because I get to play against so many of my friends over there.

“Senior night was special. I mean, me, Marcel, Trian and David, we’re all buds, and getting to play together for two hours makes my day that much better.”

Central senior Matt Miller was robbed of two near-goals by leaping, full-stretch saves from Tigers’ goalie Michael Hansen. Hansen finished with only seven saves, but he was an active, impact player the entire match.

Central’s lone goal came in the final minutes of the game when senior wing Jacob Sebesta tapped in a loose ball after a centering pass from Eduardo Cardenas.

The Warriors finished the season 5-10, 2-8 SWL.

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