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Too much Thunder as Tigers fall in section semifinal

Three goals in first half for Rocklin
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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On the strength of a trio of first half goals, the Rocklin High soccer team advanced to the section title game Wednesday night in Folsom. In the third meeting of the season between the two Sierra Foothill League rivals, the Thunder knocked off Roseville 3-0 in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division II soccer semifinals. The familiarity of the teams was a key to Rocklin’s success. Playing Roseville in the playoffs is to our advantage because of the familiarity factor,” said Rocklin coach Grant Depue. “We knew how they were going to attack us and strategically our game plan worked.” After the Tigers took it to Rocklin for the first 10 minutes of action, the Thunder responded by taking advantage of a tentative Tiger defense. A ball hit across the front of the Roseville goal found the foot of a Tiger defender in the 14th minute and was deflected in for an own goal. The ball seemed to bounce in slow motion into the goal as a crowd in front of the net looked on. That unfortunate turn got Rocklin going and seemed to have the opposite impact on Roseville, as the Tigers were never the same after that initial tally. In the 28th minute, a rebound off the hands of Roseville goalkeeper Josh Pulver led to a second Thunder score, as Justin Soria was sitting on the doorstep to finish off the chance. My team made three costly defensive mistakes,” said Roseville coach Pablo Gutierrez. “If you analyze Rocklin's goals, they all came on defensive mistakes on our part. It would have been different if we had scored first. My team regressed back to the beginning of the year; giving easy goals to the opponent. Rocklin stayed focused and once they got the first goal they built confidence.” Seconds before intermission Rocklin extended the advantage to 3-0 as Chris Streeter scored on a header from a Seth Casiple free kick to about eight yards in front. Streeter just beat Pulver, who was trying to cut off the cross, to the ball as he nodded it home. With the lead established, and its opponent struggling to find its game, Rocklin packed in the defense after intermission and earned a spot in the section title game Saturday. Roseville found a bit of its energy after the break and continued to attack, but Depue’s strategy of double-teaming Tanner Roland all over the field kept Roseville’s dynamic scorer from getting loose. “I do feel there was a letdown in their sails after the first 10 minutes,” Depue said. “They struggled to get the ball from our midfield and we literally passed the legs off of them. We knew Tanner Roland was their whole offense. I think once they realized we were going to double him all game they were a lost cause.” The Thunder dropped Noe Romero from his usual midfield spot and assigned him the task of shadowing Roland, and it worked well for them. Romero’s work helped Conor Delaney and the Rocklin defense keep the Tigers away from the scoring area. “He (Romero) is a big physical player who we knew would be disciplined enough to play Tanner without fouling,” Depue said. To his credit, Roland was active throughout the contest, working back to the ball and attacking the double-team with a passion, but there was just no space there as the Thunder packed in the defense. Rocklin was also able to benefit from its ability to control the midfield for most of the night, as Gutierrez found himself adjusting personnel in an attempt to win balls and get his offense working again. Casiple, Soria and Streeter led the charge in the Rocklin midfield. I was impressed with No. 7 (Alex Both) on their squad as well but he had to move from striker into the midfield in an attempt to win the ball from us,” Depue said. “Their team depth couldn’t keep up with us and once they had to go to subs we had the advantage.” A pair of spectacular long-range shots by Both and Giovanni Reader looked promising for Roseville, but Rocklin keeper Zach Kammerer was up to the task and made two solid saves. For Roseville, it was a night of struggles in the back, but Tyrone Richardson was a bright spot in the defense for Gutierrez as he was relentless and physical. “Rocklin played probably their most organized game of the year,” Gutierrez said. “They didn't argue with the referees. The covered our key player. They scored on chances they had and the calls went their way. My team did better in the second half but couldn't score. We needed one goal for motivation. My players were really trying hard but their confidence had been tarnished by the early goals.” The loss brings to a close a surprisingly strong season for a Roseville team that won just one league game a year ago before bouncing back to finish second in the league this season. “I'm very proud of my team,” Gutierrez said. “They gave it all. Even when we lost players to injury or grades, some else came out strong. It was a very satisfying year.” Rocklin, the SFL’s third-place squad, now moves on to face Oak Ridge in the section title game at 4 p.m. Saturday. The Trojans are brimming with confidence after a 2-0 semifinal win over SFL champion Granite Bay. “Oak Ridge will be a tough opponent,” Depue said. “Anybody who can beat Granite Bay is the real deal. I think playing them in the preseason might play to our disadvantage with our players potentially becoming overconfident. Oak Ridge is well coached and they have won in the big game before.” I am expecting them to be physical and scrappy,” Depue continued. “They have some very fast and talented players who have great game smarts and will counterattack with a punch. If they score early then they will be difficult to beat. There goalie looked tough last night and they tremendous team ball. They remind me of Del Oro when I watch them play and I think we are going to game play accordingly.”