Visiting Rio Mesa High put an end to Oxnard’s unbeaten campaign, making two first-half goals stand up with tough defense in the second half and earning a 2-0 shutout Tuesday afternoon.
The Spartans may have produced the first defeat of the season for Oxnard (11-1-2, 2-1-1), but Rio Mesa (11-3-1, 2-1-1) wasn’t as concerned about that as it was in getting itself back on track after a rather shocking 4-2 loss Thursday to Camarillo at home.
It all goes to show the perennial competitiveness of the PVL, where no victory is ever guaranteed.
“This was a gut check for our team,” said Rio Mesa coach Brandon Fuchs. “Our boys had a letdown last Thursday and we knew if we wanted to stay in the league race, Oxnard was the key.”
Jesus Espinoza scored Rio Mesa’s first goal, rebounding a free kick by Emiliano Amaro at the 8-minute mark.
“I think I got the defense off guard with that deflection that the goalie caught,” Espinoza said of his goal, “just drove him back into the net.”
Diego Herrera added the second goal 22 minutes later, getting a 40-yard kick past Oxnard goalie Jerry Cortes in a low, bright sun.
Fuchs said it was a tall order for his team to come into Houser Stadium to face the Yellowjackets with the idea of knocking them off and getting back into the league race.
“Camarillo and everyone else in our league are very strong and so we can’t let anyone off lightly,” the coach said. “We knew that we had to come into Oxnard — undefeated, No. 1 in our league, one of the few undefeated teams in the CIF, period. They’re a good team, but today we were better.”
While disappointed for his team to have sustained its first loss, Oxnard coach Eric Montijo knew the opposition would be difficult.
“I think when we had our chances we just didn’t execute like we should’ve,” Montijo said. “I think they controlled the ball a little bit more in the first half. The second half, I think we controlled the ball a little bit more, but they just didn’t fall in. Our shots were not off frame, but we should’ve at least challenged the goalie a little bit more. We just didn’t challenge the goalie.”
In earning his fourth shutout of the season, goalie Leandro Marquez spearheaded the Spartans defense, which kept the Yellowjackets from ever really getting much of an attack going.
“Leandro Marquez has played solid for us all season,” Fuchs said. “That sun was a problem in the second half. In the first half, he made some incredible saves as well. He has been the core to our defense throughout the season, just being able to be the quarterback of our defense.”
The PVL race tightens up and the degree of difficulty remains high. The Spartans host Channel Islands on Thursday, while Oxnard visits Hueneme.
“We’re just going to work on the little things, execution,” Montijo said of the Yellowjackets. “Tomorrow we’re going to work on passing. I think we just need to work on shooting on goal a little bit more and we should be OK for Thursday.”