FARMINGTON — Carlos Yllescas' first season of his second tenure as head coach of the Piedra Vista boys soccer team came to an end today, and though the Panthers couldn't score a district win, the coach still considered it a great season.
The Panthers (6-13-1, 0-8 District 1-6A) fell behind 3-0 early in their match against Rio Rancho and never recovered, losing 5-2.
But Yllescas said his players battled hard, and once again made a solid class 6A team sweat in a game that was tight for much of the afternoon.
"We played hard. We gave everything we've got," Yllescas said. "We played with intensity and marked body to body. We did not give space, and that's how you've got to play against this team."
The Rams (10-10, 3-4) appeared to be on their way to an easy victory with three goals in the game's first 20 minutes. That was until Victor Alba and Angel Flores, PV's team leader in goals, both found the back of the net to tighten up the game.
Flores' goal, which stunned the Rams just 35 seconds into the second half, was set up by a nice through ball by Max Eisenfeld.
Suddenly ahead just 3-2 with a whole half to play, Rio Rancho turned it up a notch and played excellent soccer for the duration of the game, according to Yllescas.
"The other team decided to calm down. As an experienced team, they knew to build and to pass better," Yllescas said. "We did not give up, though, we played with heart and with energy."
Rio Rancho finished the Panthers off with two goals inside the game's final 30 minutes. PV's remaining offensive chances came from well beyond the box, with many shots missing the net by a wide margin.
PV finished the 2016 season with one more win than it had last year, despite moving up to a much more competitive class and district. Yllescas said he thinks his program's arrow is definitely pointing up.
"I'm happy, I'm excited. We've got a good program with good support," Yllescas said. "We're going to start early (in the off-season), as always, just building the program. We're going to be in good shape."
Piedra Vista 1, Rio Rancho 0
A goal by senior Makeyan Kalmbach was all the Piedra Vista girls soccer team needed to upset Rio Rancho on the road todayand pick up its first win of the district season.
Kalmbach took advantage of an out-of-position Lady Rams goaltender and beat her midway through the first half for the game's only goal. The Lady Panthers (7-12-1, 1-6-1 District 1-6A) proceeded to grind their way to a 1-0 win in their season finale.
"In the second half, (Rio Rancho) really came out and put some pressure on us, especially in the first 10 minutes," PV coach Adam Huff said. "But our girls deserve credit for adjusting on their own. The defense was on the far side of the field, so they couldn't really hear us yelling to them. They showed their maturity."
The Lady Panthers displayed distinct improvement in the second half of their district schedule, especially during Thursday's 0-0 tie versus Volcano Vista. A new 5-2-3 formation is part of the reason why, Huff said, as it allowed his team to stick right with Volcano Vista and then defeat Rio Rancho (11-6-3, 3-3-3).
"We finally found that formation that fit our style, and the girls played it to perfection," Huff said. "We only have two midfielders out there, and they worked their tails off today."
Huff said PV is used to being a playoff team, so the Lady Panthers weren't entirely happy with their seven-win season. But the coach said it's still satisfying to see their work pay off with a win against a 6A squad.
"Every time we played a team in district for the second time, we got better — every single time," Huff said. "When you jump up a class, it's always scary, 'cause if you just go get your tail kicked, it could push your program back a bit. But our seniors took pride in the program, and we kept building until we finally got it done today."
Jake Newby covers sports for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.