The Pirates, who had already wrapped up the Bay Valley Athletic League title last week, easily handled the Panthers in their previous matchup on Jan. 19. This time around, Antioch played to a 1-1 tie, improving its postseason chances.
“It was a solid game,” said Panthers head coach Julio Borge. “We played them differently today. We played them more offensively. We didn’t wait for them to come to us; we put the pressure on them.”
It was a spirited, hard-fought game. Pittsburg (12-7-4, 6-0-2 BVAL) took the early lead, roughly five minutes into the game, on a goal by senior forward Jaime Lopez. Junior midfielder Isreal Murgia was credited with the assist.
At the 17-minute mark in the first half, Antioch (7-7-4, 2-2-3 BVAL) answered with a score from sophomore Julian Cabeza. The Panthers, hoping to make the first dent in Pittsburg’s league record, managed three more shots on goal before halftime, keeping the Pirates’ defense busy.
“We dominated, we controlled the ball, but we couldn’t finish,” Pittsburg head coach Pablo Gaytan said. “If you don’t finish, you get stuck with a tie or losing. You’ve got to be able to finish your opportunities, and we didn’t do that.”
The second half was a back-and-forth struggle for position. Pittsburg managed several shots on goal, but Antioch senior goalkeeper David Saldana stopped them short of touching the net.
Gaytan was pleased with his team’s performance, but noted that the Pirates’ biggest bugaboo has been closing out games. Pittsburg had a bevy of chances to take the lead in the second half, but frustration just mounted.
Borge, who will retire from his post at the end of the season, switched things up from the Jan. 19 game, which Antioch lost 4-2. The Panthers moved to a 4-3-3 defense to keep the pressure on the Pirates, a decision that worked well.
The game ended on a sour note, as referees called the game in the final two minutes due to a skirmish between the two teams. No punches were landed, but officials and coaches were forced to separate the squads.
Though Pittsburg’s postseason spot is already reserved, Antioch is still waiting for an invitation to the NCS tournament, which starts Feb. 15.