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Moreno Valley pushes around, upsets Great Oak

02/16/2013, 2:15am PST
By Justin Montello

Great Oak's boys soccer team upset in the first round of the playoffs

— On the heels of an undefeated Southwestern League championship, the Great Oak High boys soccer team had high postseason expectations.

But what happened in Friday’s 3-0 loss to visiting Moreno Valley in the CIF-Southern Section Division III first round was beyond reason for the Wolfpack.

Moreno Valley (10-7-3) stepped onto the pitch and play a physically intimidating match in effort to overcome the Wolfpack’s (16-1-1) superior athleticism.

What ensued was nine yellow cards, two for Great Oak, and a red card for Moreno Valley goalkeeper Luis Lopez.

“I’ve played and coached soccer for a long time and I’ve never been a part of anything like this,” Wolfpack coach Adam Skumawitz said. “Sure the game was physical, but that was the worst officiating I’ve ever seen.”

Great Oak had plenty of opportunities — the Wolfpack had 18 shots on goal but couldn’t score.

“We created a lot of good chances, but there are those games when it just doesn’t happen for you,” Skumawitz said. “Unfortunately for us, it was tonight and it was the playoffs.”

For senior captain Bryson Gaitan, it was the end of a high school career that included three consecutive league titles.

“I love the guys I played with and I feel that we had a special season,” Gaitan said.

Raul Ortega put in an early first-half goal, giving Moreno Valley a 1-0 lead at the break.

In the second half, Great Oak forced the issue and controlled possession.

Wolfpack forward Ariel Lassiter often looked like the quickest player on the pitch, often sprinting with space often down the left side of the pitch. But Lassiter’s left foot proved too powerful, launching shots high over the goal or just off the mark.

Moreno Valley’s Jonathan Reyes gathered a loose ball three minutes into the second half and managed to bound it over the hands of Great Oak goalkeeper Hunter Fitzsimmons, making it 2-0 for Moreno Valley.

While the Wolfpack continued to frantically push with no success, Moreno Valley got the kill shot with just a few minutes remaining.

Fatigued by their efforts to score, the Wolfpack’s back line was poorly positioned when Moreno Valley’s Jacob Barron raced after a loose ball rolling toward the Great Oak goal.

Fitzsimmons made the decision to come out and attack the ball but fouled Barron in the process, giving Moreno Valley a penalty kick.

Barron buried it past replacement goalkeeper Aidan Wright and the game was basically over.

“It’s a tough loss, hard to get over,” Fitzsimmons said. “It’s definitely not the way you want to go out, but we still had a great season.”

Fitzimmons had six saves.

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