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Grizzles score early, cool off Roseville

Granite Bay locks up league soccer title
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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Two early goals provided the Granite Bay High soccer team all it would need Tuesday in a 2-0 win at Roseville. In a battle between the top two teams in the Sierra Foothill League soccer standings, it was the front-running Grizzlies (9-0) who got the better of second-place Roseville (6-3-1), a win that locks up the regular season league title for Granite Bay. “I was a bit nervous about this game,” said Granite Bay coach Steve Fischer. “Roseville was on a major roll and we are a bit out of sorts...we have a couple of injuries, some time conflicts, and a few other issues. We can play much better.” The Grizzlies scored just six minutes in on a long cross from midfielder Kyle Howarth that was nodded home by junior Brenden Pettingill at the far post. Six minutes later, the Roseville defense allowed Connor Puhala to turn at the goal line and deliver a pass to forward Billy Marsden for a one-touch finish. Those two tallies stood up the rest of the match as Granite Bay put its ball control system to work, allowing Roseville very few opportunities in the attacking zone. The combination of stellar Grizzly defense and poor execution by the Roseville midfielders kept the Tigers’ from getting the ball to talented striker Tanner Roland up top. For most of the opening half, Roseville struggled simply to clear the ball out of its defensive third, often resorting to banging it out of play only to reset for a throw-in restart. That pressure opened the door for a number of additional Granite Bay scoring chances, which it could not cash in. Whether it was the fatigue from having played a physically demanding make-up game against Oakmont just 24 hours earlier or a general feeling that they could not beat the Grizzlies, Roseville’s intensity level was down significantly from where it has been in recent outings. “You worked hard to get a team rhythm and you think have it and suddenly it disappears,” said Roseville coach Pablo Gutierrez. “I think it was a combination of two things, the kids were tired and they showed to much respect to the other team. Our concentration level was very low and we regressed to the old methods of allowing kick easy goals.” Gutierrez tried to juggle his alignment to change the flow of the game, and while he was able to steady the situation in back, the Tigers were never able to conquer the issues that kept them out of the scoring area all day long. After having had great success recently with Giovanni Reader running in the midfield instead of the defense, the Tigers moved the sophomore back to the back line in those one in an attempt to stabilize the defensive effort. “The first 15 minutes of the game Tanner (Roland) hardly got the ball and most of the time he was chasing it because our passing was off,” Gutierrez said. “Once I put Giovanni back on defense things settled. At halftime we had a good talk and the behavior changed on most of my players.” Roseville’s competitiveness improved after intermission, but the team was still lacking an edge that it has had earlier this season. That missing energy kept the Tigers frustrated in their efforts to get back in the game. There were limited good chances late, but the Grizzlies defensive group, anchored by Jonathan Beach, Nico Mamone and Puhala was always lurking. Kendall Modiste was a constant presence for Granite Bay in the midfield, and the junior kept Roseville from getting anything going in combining quality passing. With the league title already in hand, the Grizzlies now set about the work of getting themselves ready for postseason play. They visit Oakmont (2-6-1) Thursday and then make up a huge league game Monday night in Rocklin (5-4) as the Thunder look to stay in the playoff hunt. “We are looking forward to playing the rest of our league schedule, then in preparing for the playoffs,” Fischer said. “Home field can mean something, and a high seed can help somewhat too.” Roseville has to get its game back before a road contest at Woodcreek Thursday. The Tigers have just two games remaining as they seek to hold onto one of the SFL’s three coveted playoff berths. To that end, Gutierrez huddled with his three senior co-captains after the contest. “My meeting with the captains was to talk about refocusing and playing to end the season strong as possible,” Gutierrez said. With a bye early next week, the Tigers have just two league games remaining. A win over 2-7 Woodcreek Thursday would go a long way in sending Roseville in the direction of the playoffs, but the Timbewolves have been tougher lately and it will be a high-pressure matchup for Roseville. The Tigers close out their season on the home field against Del Oro (6-3-1) next Thursday. They hope that their playoff future does not come down to needing to win that contest.