MISSION VIEJO "” It was a magical and dominant run to the Area 11-L title game for the AYSO Region 86 Fat Pandas, a boys’ under-12 team.
In the end, though, sometimes even a Fat Panda can bite off a bit more than it can chew.
The team’s season came to an end at the hands of a tough Ladera Ranch team, 3-0, Wednesday night at Gilleran Sports Park.
“They got the jump on us with a couple of fast breaks in the first period, but then we adjusted our defense and brought an extra player back," Laguna Beach Coach Sam Hooper said.
“We also assigned our best defender to [a Ladera Ranch striker], and when we did that we basically shut him down."
Daniel Peterson was the Fat Pandas defender who helped shut down the Ladera Ranch standout. He, along with fullbacks Stirling Marshall, Jonah Reynolds, Lucas Toro and Noah Schucking, helped limit Ladera Ranch after it scored two goals in the first 10 minutes of the game.
Striker Drew Jonus provided Laguna Beach plenty of scoring chances, especially in the second half. He passed to James Marshall, who got off some quality shots but the Region 86 squad just couldn’t get on the board.
Ben Kieswetter made seven saves for Laguna Beach.
“For the whole tournament, our goalie Ben played outstanding," Hooper said. “In this whole tournament, we scored 25 goals and let up four, and three of those were today. We were a hot team coming in.
“We got here because we were aggressive; we battled for every ball. We were well-balanced on both offense and defense, but we really ran into a team that was hotter than us. They played well and so give them credit."
Schucking said he could see the Fat Pandas’ improvement as the game went along.
Ladera Ranch scored its final goal on an unlucky play in the fourth quarter, when the ball bounced off the goalie’s hands and right to a Ladera Ranch player.
“In the second, third and fourth quarter we were great," Schucking said. “We were getting in our game and we weren’t letting them score. I think we did the best job we could do against Ladera Ranch. They’re a really good team and I hope they make it far in the sectionals."
Laguna striker Colton Bryant said it was just tough for the Fat Pandas to score.
“I think they had some great defense and some great offense," Bryant said. “We tried our hardest. I think if we play them again we could beat them, but I hope they make it far."
Also contributing for the Fat Pandas were halfbacks Wyland Guthrie, Miles Hooper, Tim Andrews and Vasco Sylvester. Vasco is from Malawi and this is his first year playing soccer, but he said he had a great time with the Fat Pandas too.