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RHS soccer teams split with Madison Academy

RUSSELLVILLE - Preparation for 2018 is already under way for the Russellville High School soccer teams. Both varsity squads have been training so far this summer, and last Friday the girls’ and boys’ teams gave fans a very early preview of what to look forward to next season.

Last Friday night, Russellville hosted a summer “friendly” against Madison Academy at Golden Tiger Stadium. The girls’ game got the exhibition started at 5:30 p.m.

Unlike the boys’ team, which participated in an exhibition tournament in Florence on June 3, last Friday’s matchup was the first chance for Russellville’s girls to face competition this summer.

During the game, the Lady Golden Tigers found a few opportunities to score, including a shot on goal by returning striker Zayra Perez, but they could not get past the Madison Academy keeper. Defensively, returning goalkeeper Briana Ramirez made more than a few impressive saves, but she could not keep the Lady Mustangs out of the net forever.

At halftime, Russellville trailed 3-0 and eventually fell 6-0 to the Lady Mustangs.

“It was super-hot out there for the girls, so they hung in there and battled,” said Russellville head coach Trey Stanford. “The girls played hard, but they have a long way to go.”

Moving forward, Stanford said there are a few areas that the Lady Golden Tigers need to focus on as the team continues its summer training.

“We really have to work on footwork this summer,” he said. “The girls’ post touch, their speed and agility, overall movement of the ball and without the ball are four areas that we really need to emphasize a lot this summer.”

But while the technical areas need work, Stanford said the girls’ commitment and mental toughness during the game was encouraging.

“Overall, I was impressed with effort,” he said. “It was, like, a hundred degrees, and they kept playing. Nobody complained about how hot it was, other than me, and I was impressed with that.”

Following the girls’ game, the defending Class 4A-5A, Area 16 champion boys took the field. Though the heat was not as much of a factor for the boys as it was for the girls, the Golden Tigers still faced a challenge in Madison Academy.
The Mustangs were stubborn and physical on defense, allowing the Golden Tigers a few chances throughout the game but never an easy goal.

At halftime [the matches were played like normal 80-minute matches with the exception of a 10-minute heat break during each half], Russellville led 1-0.

The lone first-half goal came from rising senior Andy Alonso who, off a give-and-go pass, received the ball back from a teammate on the right side of the net. With just a moment to make his calculation, and from about 15 yards away, Alonso smashed the ball past the keeper and into the left back corner of the net.

Alonso scored another impressive goal in the second half. This time the 30-goal scorer from last season leapt between the goalkeeper and another defender to head in a perfectly crossed ball from Esvin Mateo. Alonso’s second goal capped the scoring and secured the 2-0 win for Russellville.

Although the result was different, the Russellville boys, like the girls, still have plenty to work on and improve. This summer, the key for the Golden Tigers is building teamwork and trust on a team with a mix of returning veterans and new faces, while simultaneously working to improve technique and skill.

“As they’re playing together, they will be growing to know each other,” Stanford said. “A lot of the new kids we have on our team don’t know our returning players that well, and they have to trust each other.

“We had several times throughout the game that the younger kids didn’t quite know where they should be, which is the lack of playing and lack of practice with our team and learning how we do things.”

Communication on the pitch, another issue that Stanford stressed throughout the game last Friday, should improve over time, but passing is also a key area that the second-year head coach will continue to emphasize this summer.

“Our first touches need to be better and much more controlled,” Stanford said. “We have to improve our quick, one-touch passes, and we have got to get better at movement without the ball so we can make the quicker one-touch passes.”

That said, Stanford has seen improvement in those areas in just the last few weeks.

“I absolutely think the boys passed the ball better [against Madison Academy] than when we played the first exhibitions at Florence,” he said. “I think we will get better as the summer goes along and as they start to gel with each other and learn how to play with each other.”

Russellville’s boys are set to host Florence in an exhibition game on Tuesday, June 20. The Golden Tiger guys and girls have two other exhibition games scheduled on June 22 at home versus Tanner and June 24 at Tanner.

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