Panthers soccer starts season off right |

Panthers soccer starts season off right

Senior Cesar Sandoval puts a penalty kick past the keeper to give the Middle Park Panthers a 1-0 lead in the season opener. Sawyer D'Argonne / Sky-Hi News.

The Middle Park High School Panther’s started their soccer season off right today, defeating Lake County 3-2 in the season opener.

While the game was exciting from beginning to end, a sense of melancholy could also be felt on the Middle Park sidelines, and in the cheering section. The game started late today so that the team could attend a service for the three-year-old sister of one of the players, who tragically passed away last weekend.

The name of the player and his sister has been withheld to respect the family’s privacy.

The team donned blue armbands that they will wear throughout the season as a tribute to their teammate’s sister.

“We decided as a team that we wanted to support him and his family,” said Head Coach Dane Ruttenberg. “So we’re paying tribute to the family for the season by wearing these blue armbands. That was her favorite color.”

Middle Park did her proud, beginning the season with a win after falling to Lake County in the season opener last season, the beginning of a tough 5-10 year.

The first half was largely a battle of attrition, as the teams tried to wear down opposing defenses to no avail. But the second half started with a bang, and never slowed down.

The scoring got started when Senior Cesar Sandoval nailed a penalty kick to give Middle Park the lead. Sophomore Akram Hanna followed up the goal with a beautiful header passed the keeper, assisted by Sophomore Chris Orear, to give the Panther’s a 2-0 lead.

Lake County came firing back, however, notching two quick goals to tie the game as Middle Park’s defense finally began to give way.

It didn’t matter to Senior Ryan Christenson, though, who dropped a touch shot over the Lake County keeper’s head to take the lead back with 19 minutes left.

The defense and freshman keeper Ethan Ruttenberg were able to weather a desperate Lake County attack to win the game.

“We’ve been working a lot on being organized as a team,” said coach Ruttenberg. “I thought we did a really nice job of balancing our defense, midfield and forwards. We gave up 77 goals last year, and I want to cut that in half.”

While Coach Ruttenberg was happy with the overall performance of his team in the opener, he said they still need to work on their communication, quickness and confidence.

“I think we need to learn to just be calm,” he said. “They got a lead and they panicked a little bit. They need to be confident when they get a lead, and keep doing what they’re doing.”

The Panthers next game is Sept. 1, at Skyview Academy before returning home to take on Estes Park on Sept. 9.

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