Grizzlies widen gap with win over Oakmont

Vikings still seeking first league win
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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A disappointing run of games to open league play left an Oakmont High soccer team that entered the season with lofty expectations desperate for a good result when it arrived at Granite Bay to face the league-leading Grizzlies Tuesday afternoon. While the Vikings delivered an outstanding performance, it was not enough as they dropped a 2-1 decision and fell further behind in the race for a postseason berth. Oakmont controlled the flow of the match much of the way, but missed on a number of scoring chances to leave the door open for a late Grizzly goal to seal its fate. “I felt we got outplayed yesterday for huge chunks of the game,” said Granite Bay coach Steve Fischer. “You could tell that it meant more to Oakmont than to us. They played with a sense of urgency and we played rather flat. They were aggressive and creative, we were not.” While the Vikings were very good through the middle of the field, their runs tended to bog down when they arrived in the vicinity of the Granite Bay goal. The Grizzly defenders did a nice job slowing Oakmont’s attack as it advanced near to scoring territory, where the Vikings seemed to halt the strong passing game that moved them into position in favor of one-on-one play. While the Oakmont attackers tried to dribble into shot opportunities, the Granite Bay defenders were efficient at standing them up while the defensive helpers got into position. Led by sweeper Jonathan Beach and his back line counterparts Nico Mamone, Bobby Stuckey and Jordan Weber, the Granite Bay defense stifled many Oakmont scoring runs. “I thought it was our best game this season,” said Oakmont coach Mark Broers. “The intensity was there, not many mental mistakes, and tons of effort. We had more of the ball and won more of the challenges but on the attack we tended to slow down too much around the 20-yard-line and hold the ball up at our striker's feet instead of keeping the same pace going forward to goal. That allowed the GB defense to catch up and eventually flood the area. This is something my attackers need to change.” Granite Bay scored first, taking advantage of defensive confusion in front of the Oakmont frame after a corner kick. After the ball ricocheted around inside the penalty area, forward Connor Hallisey beat Oakmont goalkeeper Brandon Vargas with an initial shot, only to see Viking midfielder Robert Work, who was positioned at the back post, get a foot on the ball to turn it aside from the back of the net. Work’s play only delayed the inevitable as the rebound fell at the feet of Granite Bay’s Brady Nations. With Vargas scrambling to recover and three Vikings in his face, the sophomore defender struck a solid return shot that found the net to put the Grizzlies on top in the 16th minute. The Vikings were most dangerous on set plays and restarts, and in the 25th minute, Oakmont scored its lone tally on a corner kick of its own. Kody Duff sent a long ball from the flag to the far end of the goal, where Mitchell Hunter was waiting. The senior headed it home to level the match at 1-1. The match went back and forth at a furious pace, with players battling for every loose ball. Duff and Granite Bay midfielder Kendall Modiste were particularly active as they went at each other over and over again. As the game progressed, Oakmont maintained possession to a greater degree, but the Vikings were unable to find the back of the net. “I can't really explain how we won,” Fischer said. “We have some talent and we connected a few things. We were a bit lucky, but we expect to win every ballgame and sometimes that makes us a little lackadaisical, but we also have a confidence that enables us to pull through. We can win ballgames that we don't necessarily play well.” The Grizzlies took the lead to stay in the 63rd minute when Hallisey played a ball to Lucas Schorer about 18 yards out. The junior midfielder lofted a high shot that eluded Vargas’ grasp and settled in the net just below the crossbar. It appeared that Vargas mistimed his leap and was on his way down as the ball sailed over his head.” Oakmont turned up the heat even more in the final 15 minutes, and had several point-blank chances come up empty, particularly two late plays off of free kicks within 30 yards of the goal. Grizzly keeper Kevin Hollingshead, who manned the frame for the second half, made some solid plays to keep his team on top by the narrowest of margins. “We still created lots of great opportunities that eluded their keeper but missed a few feet wide on several occasions,” Broers said. “We made some personnel changes in the back that worked out well and added to our attack They have found a way to come out on top the last two times we played them on their field and I have to give them credit for that.” The win leaves Granite Bay solidly in the driver’s seat in the Sierra Foothill League standings with a 5-0 league record. “We are in a good position right now, but we have a long way to go against a lot of good, hungry teams,” Fischer said. “We have to travel to some tough venues too. We hope to get a few more wins and work our way into the playoffs. After that, anything is possible.” For Oakmont, the hard luck start continues as the Vikings now sit at 0-3-1 in league play, with little margin for error the rest of the way. “I still believe that Oakmont is one of the best teams in the section,” Fischer said. “I don't know why they are losing points. They played us as well as anyone and they are a very talented team. They have a great coach. They are big, strong and aggressive. Sometimes it just goes like that.” “They have lost an awful lot of points, and though that doesn't mathematically mean much yet, it is hard to drop that many points in this league,” Fischer continued. “It will be hard to outplay the five teams that are in front of them to get into the playoffs. They almost have to win out, which is possible, but difficult. Hardly anyone wins out in our league.” The work for both teams continues Thursday when Granite Bay visits Woodcreek (0-4) and Oakmont hosts Nevada Union (1-2-1). “They (Granite Bay) are still a very good team, but I was very happy with the direction we are heading,” Broers said. “We need to string a few wins together going forward and gain points or we are just going to be spoilers this year, which would be disappointing.”