Jaguars beat St. Thomas in home finale
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Even during the sunny periods of the season, the University of Houston-Victoria soccer program said there was little that could fracture their togetherness.
Thursday, the Jaguars proved that might be the case when outside forces have cast a cloud over program.
Memorial graduate Stiven Ospina's goal with 18 minutes remaining in the first half was enough to see UHV past St. Thomas University 2-0 in Thursday's home finale.
Three days after a former Jaguar became ineligible when he dropped a class to become a part-time student and two days after the Jaguars (6-9-1) could not hold onto a 2-0 home lead, UHV banded together to produce a result.
The victory also kept alive their chances alive for qualifying for the Association of Independent Institutions conference tournament in Thomasville, Ga. next month.
"We showed a lot of heart," Ospina said. "We have a team goal to reach and that's to go to Georgia. We have to do the right things and that starts in practice."
"With all the events that have happened this week, that guys had not part of, they came out and played like they have all year," said UHV soccer coach Adrian Rigby. "They are a tight-knit group and they are a family. I am extremely proud of these kids."
One year after losing eight of 10 home games, Thursday's victory meant that on the field the Jaguars did not lose a game in Victoria.
Senior defender Rudy Castrejon did not lose a home game his senior year of high school and wanted to replicate the feat at the collegiate level. Along with midfielder Israel Zamora the two were the first seniors in program history, and wanted to leave a mark.
"It was a big thing for me," Castrejon said. "Every day I came out with the guys and I said we are not going to lose on our field. This is our turf. We know how we play on this turf. No one knows this turf better than us."
The Jaguars produced 11 shots and held onto the ball for long stretches. Though their flowing moves sometimes were thwarted just outside the penalty area at times, there were also periods where their shooting did not trouble St. Thomas goalkeeper Jason Taffet.
However, the runs from midfield to support lone striker Adrian Mendoza eventually wore down the Celts (7-7-1) to the point that their captain Jack Brett bickered with defender Asayat Camarena after yet another runner went unmarked in the 81st minute.
UHV left winger Oliver Robinson had tormented the Celts defense for most of the second half. His goal in the 85th minute to seal the win was the product of finally taking advantage of those chances.
Mendoza held the ball us with his back toward goal, which attracted two St. Thomas defenders. He sprayed the ball to his right to Abel Farias, who then found Robinson unmarked at the back post for the clincher.
Castrejon and Ospina said forfeiting the victories made the team want to work harder to prove that they are indeed a good side after the ineligible player forced the forfeiture of five wins.
"We wanted to prove that we're that good and it wasn't a joke," Ospina said. "We want to show we can continue to win after that bad news was revealed."