CHEYENNE – Laramie County Community College planned to pressure Otero Junior College at every turn Saturday.
The No. 8-ranked Golden Eagles wanted to force Otero into mistakes, but they didn’t pressure as well as coach Vince Gibson would have liked during the first half. Gibson spent halftime reminding his club of the game plan.
LCCC responded and netted both goals of the 2-0 win during the final 45 minutes.
“We talk all the time about bringing pressure for the start of the game, but we just haven’t been doing that in the first half,” Gibson said. “We reinforce that to them at halftime, and then we start doing it.
“We start stepping up and pressing, forcing them into mistakes and turnovers that give us more chances.”
The Eagles outshot Otero 8-3 during the first half – including a 4-1 advantage in shots on goal – but had nothing to show for it. Ramping up the pressure got LCCC 15 shots during the second half, including eight on goal.
The Eagles got on the scoreboard in the 53rd when sophomore Carlos Vargas dribbled the ball along the end line where he was fouled inside the penalty area by Rattlers’ Alejandro Castillo.
Vargas rifled a left-footed shot off Otero goalkeeper Daniel Ibarra and into the right side netting for a 1-0 lead.
“(Ibarra) kept leaning to that side, so I was pretty sure he knew where I was going to go,” Vargas said of his team-leading ninth goal. “I hit it pretty hard and it bounced off his hands.
“When you get a penalty, you have to finish it. Especially when you have a chance to put your team ahead.”
LCCC’s second goal came as a direct result of the increased pressure.
Sophomore defensive midfielder Cole Van Holland pushed forward and won a battle for the ball near the top of the 18-yard box. He slipped the ball to the left leaving freshman Chuy Gonzalez one-on-one with the goal keeper. Gonzalez scored easily for a 2-0 lead in the 63rd.
It was his first goal of the season.
“I saw Cole pressure a defender and I was right there at the right time,” Gonzalez said. “I looked at the goal and knew right where I was going with it. I wasn’t looking at the goalie. I was just looking at where I was shooting it and it went in.
“I made the mistake of looking at the goalie earlier and it threw me off and I kicked it right at him. I was only looking at where I was going to shoot it.”
Van Holland took the message about pressure to the extreme, Gibson said.
“We’ve been telling him to step up and press the guy who is next past him, but he went up and pressed a guy who was probably two guys past him,” the coach said with a laugh. “He doesn’t have to go all the way up there, but it was awesome that he did.
“(Van Holland) did great in this game. He was working his tail off and being everywhere. He’s not a glory guy, he’s a guy who does the dirty work, and that paid off for us.”
LCCC (7-1-1 overall, 4-0-1 Region IX) limited Otero to just four shots on the afternoon. Sophomore goalkeeper Declan Domyan was forced to make just one save, which came during the first half.
LCCC 2, OTERO 0
Goals: LCCC, Vargas (penalty kick), 53. LCCC, Gonzalez (Van Holland), 63.
Shots: OJC 4, LCCC 23. Shots on goal: OJC 1, LCCC 12. Saves: OJC 10 (Ibarra 9, Team 1); LCCC 1 (Domyan).
Corner kicks: OJC 2, LCCC 8. Offsides: OJC 1, LCCC 1. Fouls: OJC 10. LCCC 18. Yellow cards: OJC 2 (Candia, 51. Coach, 89); LCCC 3 (Espino-Kennedy, 7. Castruita, 17. Ibarra, 71).