Oakmont, Bella Vista get physical

Top teams play to 1-1 draw
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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The small field at Bella Vista High School made for rapid end-to-end action and physical play Thursday as the Oakmont High soccer team played the host Broncos to a 1-1 standoff. The early advantage in the contest went to Bella Vista as Oakmont struggled with its touch on the ball, and with the narrow pitch. The Vikings still generated a number of scoring chances in the early stages on the counterattack. “They are a good team again,” said Oakmont coach Mark Broers. “Much better than last year I think but the tiny field they play on contributed to the end-to-end action and rough play. It would be a different game on our large field.” Tyler Kuresa and Royce Kelly were outstanding in the middle of the Oakmont defense, but their efforts were matched by the strong play of the Broncos’ sophomore sweeper Chase Strombeck. The match was played with the intensity of a league match, though these two squads will not be in the same league until Oakmont joins Bella Vista in the CVC next year. “We will definitely have our hands full with BV in the future league,” Broers said. A scoreless first half gave way to an equally chippy second stanza, despite the fact that Bella Vista’s top two players had received yellow cards before intermission. Oakmont had the game’s first great scoring chance 10 minutes into the second half. Mitchell Hunter fed Cole Alexander in a dangerous position, but the Bella Vista goalkeeper was in the right position to shut the door. Three minutes later, Bella Vista put together a flurry of activity in the face of the Oakmont pipes. Kasey Cox had the initial opportunity, taking advantage of a Viking throw-in miscue as Jonathan Sanburg played a ball through. Kuresa defended Cox on a shot attempt, but the ball found its way back to the Bronco striker, who sent a rocket off the crossbar that bounced away. The pressure continued for two more minutes, with Oakmont keeper Brandon Vargas making a great play to refuse one shot, and then an Anthony Contreras header banging off the woodwork as another chance came up short. Oakmont’s Robert Work found Alexander right in front of the net in the 59th minute, but Alexander’s header missed its target, but two minutes later, the Vikings finally broke the ice. With Strombeck off the field after receiving a yellow card, Oakmont took advantage of the weakened defense. Oakmont’s defense punched a ball out to Alexander, who made a strong run from the back all the way into the Bella Vista penalty area, where he was taken down. Kody Duff converted the penalty kick and the Vikings were on top 1-0. The lead held until the 74th minute, when an Oakmont defensive mistake turned the ball over to Cox, and the senior captain cashed it in with a strong finish to level the match. The squads continued to bang away at each other the rest of the way, and Bella Vista kept pushing forward even after losing a play to a red card, and going a man down the rest of the way. Neither was successful, and the match ended in a draw. Neither team gets a rest after this battle, as Oakmont plays four games in two days Friday and Saturday at the Del Campo tournament at Cherry Island, while the Broncos are at Granite Bay Friday afternoon. “Guys are going to play more sparingly in the tournament as a result of this game and most will get on the field at some point to keep people healthy and fresh for next week,” Broers said. “We'd like to win our games but improving our play and getting match fit is the goal prior to our Roseville game. So far we are making good progress.”