By Jeanne Sager
JEFFERSONVILLE A language separates them, but the two teams on the Sullivan West pitch Thursday afternoon were markedly similar.
While the bulk of Fallsburg’s soccer players yelled directions to one another in Spanish, Sullivan West’s booters were calling out the same warnings to teammates . . . in English.
The constant chatter kept pace with the tight Orange County Interscholastic Athletic Association (OCIAA) Division IV match the Comets won 1-0.
Fallsburg junior striker Julio Deras shot the winning goal past SW goalie Logan Grishaber on a corner kick assist from Jose Aguila with 10 minutes to go in the first half.
No one would score again.
Despite a total of 20 Comet attempts, 17 deflected by Grishaber and two more by Lucas Bauer, his replacement late in the second half.
For Fallsburg (1-5-1, 1-1 Division IV), keeper Zac Jonas easily handled 10 Bulldog shot attempts, including penalty kicks by both Bauer (which went wide early in the game) and Grishaber (bent just a hair too high, stealing the Bulldogs’ last chance at a goal late in the second half).
But the real story of the game was Aguila, the senior who took command from midfield and ran the Comet offense and defense for the entire second half.
“They had an exceptional player in number 10,” SW Coach Debbie Owen said of Aguila. “He just controlled the field.
“He was good enough at it that we weren’t able to feed the ball back up to our offensive third.”
“He really played the way he’s capable of playing today,” said Fallsburg Coach Darren Kenney. “He really just had a great, tremendous game for us.”
Kenney said his team as a whole lived up to his expectations for Thursday’s game.
After a bitter loss on Tuesday to Liberty, Kenney said the Comets needed the win in Jeffersonville.
“The big team effort was what we needed,” he said. “This was a big one for us in the league.”
As for the Spanish flowing on the field, Kenney was happy to see his repeated reminders to communicate were bearing fruit.
“It’s kind of a hidden talent,” he admitted of the second language. “They could be screaming whatever they want and the other team won’t know.
“It’s a great way of communicating, and I’ve been really harping on them to talk to each other out there.”
Owen was understandably disappointed by the loss, but pleased with her team’s performance.
The Bulldogs biggest loss of the season was on Sept. 8, when they were outscored by the Family School, 6-1.
“We’ve been in the games ever since,” Owen said. “Every game has been one goal. We beat Port Jervis by one. We lost today by one.”
Reducing the margin of victory means her team has stepped up its pace on the field.
Indeed the Bulldogs were faster on their feet Thursday than they’ve been in previous games, a better match for the Fallsburg team.
The Bulldogs’ big stories came from younger players, including freshman Tyler Groh, a defender who stepped up each time the Comets moved into the back third of SW (1-5, 0-2 Division IV) territory.
Taller than most freshman, Groh is a prime example of how the Bulldogs are trying to incorporate younger players on the varsity level to make up for a lack of a JV program.
“Some games it clicks,” Owen explained. “We have a core group of players, but as we’re subbing in, if it works, we leave them there.”
Groh was one of those “if it works” examples.
Owen also experimented late in the second half, pulling Grishaber out of the goal so he could channel his intensity in the goalie’s box into his feet on the field.
A senior, he’s been a talented keeper, but Owen is aware she needs to groom younger players to man the goal after Grishaber graduates.