Tigers know importance of every soccer victory

Jd Swartzendruber of Grand Junction heads a ball as Fruita’s Ryan King comes up from behind.

From here on out, the Grand Junction High School soccer team is approaching every game as must-win.

The Tigers (7-6-0, 6-4-0 Southwestern League) realize every victory helps just a little bit in the quest for a higher seed in the Class 5A state playoffs.

With that in mind, the Tigers scored early in their final Southwestern League game Tuesday, then made it hold up as they defeated Fruita Monument 2-0 at Walker Field.

“This game was do or die,” Tigers sophomore forward Erick Villalobos said. “We were just going all out.”

His coach, Hal Templeton, had the same philosophy.

“The attitude is that every game counts,” Templeton said.

That showed in the first 20 minutes.

Less than 121/2 minutes in, Josh Sanchez sent a pass near the goal to Tim Hofer, who headed in a perfect shot from the right side to the far upper corner to put Grand Junction on the board.

Villalobos got his chance six minutes later. After taking a pass from Sean Berkson, Villalobos had a one-on-one with Wildcats goalkeeper Trevor Stocking.

“A breakaway is the best thing you can get,” Villalobos said, “but it’s also nerve-racking. You just have to focus on the goalie.”

He did, sending a low shot just inside the right post and past Stocking for the final score.

That didn’t mean that the action came to a standstill.

The Tigers had seven shots on goal in the second half, including one that hit the post, but couldn’t find the mark.

“We were trying for the shots; we just couldn’t get anything on target,” Villalobos said.

Part of that was because of the effort of Stocking, who had eight saves.

“We kept our shape well,” Templeton said of his team’s spacing on the field. “We just had to go wide and then to the center.”

The loss completed Fruita Monument’s season. The Wildcats (2-10-3, 2-6-2 SWL) did not have a victory in their final 10 games, but tied three times.

The Tigers finished third in the SWL but are the league’s second-qualifying team in Class 5A.

Grand Junction has a nonleague game with Prairie View on Thursday evening to complete its regular season.

“I would like to see us finish as strong as we can,” Templeton said.

There are still some areas he’d like to address before the start of the playoffs.

“Defensively we have some work to do,” he said. “We have some gaps to close.”

Their mission is simple, Villalobos said.

“From now on it’s pretty much win.”


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