The Littleton High School boys soccer team climbed one step closer to its goal of making the playoffs Oct. 3 by winning a hard-fought battle with ThunderRidge, 2-1 on the Grizzlies' home field.
“All remaining games are very important as we try to make the playoffs,” Lions coach Pedja Vajzovic said after the game. “It was a tough game today. This was an even game early but we also missed scoring a couple of goals we should have scored. They tied the score late in the period so it was all even. We played better in the second half, we worked hard, so we got that goal to give us the win.”
ThunderRidge coach Chris Smith was disappointed by the outcome of the game.
“This is a must-win game for us because we must win from here out if we are to get into the playoffs,” he said before the game. “We have good players and have worked hard every game. But, we have had several players sidelined by injuries and it seems we haven't been getting some of those key bounces in our favor that can help you win. So we are at a point now where we have to win the rest of our games to make the playoffs.”
The Oct. 3 win elevated the Littleton record to 7-3-1 overall and 4-1-1 in league while ThunderRidge drops to 3-8 overall and 2-6 in league.
The league season is in the home stretch. Littleton was at Littleton Public Schools Stadium Oct. 8 against Legend and Oct. 10 against Douglas County. The Lions are on the road Oct. 12 at Shea Stadium against Highlands Ranch and close out the regular season Oct. 15 at LPS against Chaparral.
The Grizzlies have three games left on the schedule. They were at Littleton Public Schools Stadium Oct. 10 against Heritage and played Castle View Oct. 11 at Dick's Sporting Goods Stadium. The final game of the season is Oct. 15 at Shea Stadium against Douglas County.
The Oct. 3 game proved to be an 80-minute back-and-forth battle as each team sought to take control of the tempo of play.
A great deal of play was in the middle of the field, as one team attacked and the other team's defense got control of the ball and sent the action the other way. There were shots on goal that sailed wide of the net, and goalies at both ends of the field caught or deflected those shots that were on target to score.
The Lions got on the scoreboard midway through the first half as the team had mounted a succession of attacks. One of attacks pushed the ball deep in ThunderRidge territory and, when there was an opening, Cole Greer drilled a low line-drive shot past the diving Grizzlies goalie.
The Grizzlies' successful attack tied the score with 2:47 left in the first half on a left-footed shot by Eric Meza.
The second half was more of the same type of back-and-forth soccer. Littleton's game winner came midway through the period when Alex Olvera drilled a hard shot at the ThunderRidge goal. Grizzlies goalie Cameron Braaten made a diving deflection but Will Patton was then to put the ball into the back of the net.
The Littleton coach said another win helps the team's effort to get into the playoffs.
“We have four league wins now and four games left to go,” Vajzovic said after the game. “We want to try to win all of them but I believe if we win at least two, we will make the playoffs.”
He said he keeps stressing that the team needs more consistent play.
“We have a lot of talent and, at times, our team can be scary good,” he said. “But, we can be scary good for a few minutes in a game but then seek to relax and just not play to the level we should be playing. I tell the players this stretch is like the World Cup for us and we need to be scary good for a full 80 minutes each game.”
Senior striker Olvera said soccer has been his favorite sport since he was 5 and he loves the game.
“My natural position is as a midfielder, but this year our team needed more offense so the coach moved me to forward,” he said. “This is an intense time of the year for all the teams in the Continental League because all the teams want to make the playoffs so everyone is fighting hard to win every game.”
He said he feels his asset to put shots on goal is receiving a pass on the ground or looking for a pass over the top to get in position between the last defender and the goalie.
Olvera shoots equally well with either foot and said that came from an injury to his left foot.
“I couldn't put weight on the left foot to drive through with my right foot to shoot the ball,” he said. “So, I practiced shooting left-footed. I still have more power when I shoot with my right foot but, if the opening is there, I can shoot well with the left foot.”