NCS boys’ Div. III final: Emotional win for Anderson Valley

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

BOONVILLE — The Anderson Valley Panthers boys soccer team took emotional wins to a new level here Saturday afternoon.

The Panthers, who lost their long-time head coach Tom Smith in a car accident last spring, scored in the final six minutes to tie Sonoma Academy and then won the Div. III North Coast Section title 2-1 with a goal four minutes into stoppage time.

Freshman Omar Solano punched in a shot for the winner after Sonoma Academy goalie Ethan Moskoff made a save and then the ball got loose in the box.

“It was truly a tough loss for us,” said Sonoma Academy head coach Chris Ziemer, “in the sense that we led for a good portion of the game. But it was a touching moment afterward to to witness Tom’s wife congratulating the Anderson Valley boys.

“We (Sonoma Academy) played hard and worked together. We played with passion and intensity. But you have to tip your hat to Anderson Valley. They kept believing it was gonna be their day too and it was.”

The Coyotes had taken the early lead in the 20th minute when sophomore Frankie Graham volleyed a shot into the upper corner of the net following a corner kick by Thomas Ziemer.

Sergio Gutierrez tied it for the Panthers in the 74th minute on a header off a corner kick as a crowd of about 300 at Tom Smith Field looked on.

Anderson Valley reached the championship game with a 3-2 win in the semifinals over Drew School while the Coyotes made their first-ever finals appearance with a 1-0 win at Fremont Christian.

The Panthers, who came into the tournament as the No. 1 seed, finished the season 19-3-4. Sonoma Academy, a No. 6 seed, was 13-14. Anderson won both regular season meetings (6-0 and 5-2) between the two teams.