And then there are the moral victories in which you didn’t win but you didn’t lose either, and can take satisfaction in a tie against a superior opponent. Such was the case Jan. 29 at Antioch High School, where the girls soccer team played to a 1-1 tie against Liberty’s dominant squad.
The Lions (or should that be Lionesses?) have burned up the soccer turf this season, coming in to last week’s match with a 10-1-2 record and an undefeated 7-0-1 in league play. Liberty won a convincing 3-0 victory over Antioch on Liberty’s turf on Jan. 13, but the teams tied 2-2 in their previous encounter on the Panther’s patchy grass on Dec. 9.
In contrast, the Panthers (Pantheresses?) have struggled, coming into the game with a 4-11-3 record (2-5-2 in league play).
Despite their contrasting seasons, the teams played quite evenly throughout the two 40-minute halves. Neither team controlled the ball or the field for much of the time, and the goalies for both teams made several good saves.
The game was such a low-scoring, back-and-forth, toss-up affair that a spectator who got up for a one-minute restroom break at one point in the game would have missed all the scoring.
Liberty’s Juliana Guillen scored first at 24 minutes, 30 seconds into the first half on an open-net goal. Antioch goalie Melissa Holmes had come out of the net area to block a kick, losing her footing in the process, and was unable to get back in time to prevent Guillen’s easy score.
But the Lady Lions were unable to enjoy their lead for very long. Just a minute later, Antioch’s Jessica Huerta kicked in a rebound right in front of the goal area to tie it up. That proved to be the final score after a hard-fought but scoreless second half.
Despite the tie, the two team’s coaches reacted quite differently to the outcome.
“We came out really flat, and Antioch came out ready to play – and that combination doesn’t bode well for us as far as achieving our goals,” said Liberty coach Tony Martins. “They typically work well together, they play for each other. We were really hitting a good stride and peaking – until today.”
When asked why he thought his team had an off night, Martins said, “If I had the answer to that, we wouldn’t have come out flat. It’s a mental part of the game. You have to take your hat off to Antioch. Especially in the first half, they beat us to a lot of balls.”
A moral victory is also a morale victory. And Antioch coach Scott Joseph believes the tie against a tough opponent may be a turnaround moment for the Panthers this season and perhaps seasons to come.
“These girls take a lot of heart here; Antioch’s program has turned for the better,” said Joseph. “You saw a lot of girls playing extremely hard and with dedication. It makes a lot of difference when you see that much determination against a class team. They (Liberty) are very disciplined – we are trying to match that. We played the game they have been practicing on, so I think that’s great for us.”
Joseph complimented Holmes’ job in the net, calling it “a fantastic game,” and praised all of his players for rising to the occasion.
“I am proud of the girls,” he said. “Antioch has been a program that has struggled in the past. These are the girls who are going to make the Antioch High School program successful for years to come. The groundwork has been laid with four seniors and nine starting juniors. I think next (year) this is a program that is going to be on the map.”
Liberty ends its regular season at home against Freedom on Feb. 12 in a game starting at 6:15 p.m. Antioch’s season finale is also slated for Feb. 12, when the Panthers play at home against Deer Valley at 6 p.m.