Nitros find rough road

OXNARD — Facing a foe that was a defending champion disguised as a wild-card entry, when Glendale High’s boys’ soccer team left Rio Mesa High on Tuesday afternoon, in many ways history had repeated itself from a season prior.

“We just got a repeat of the same thing last year. …They’re a really good team,” said Nitros Coach Tulio Marroquin of Rio Mesa. “I think our league is good, but it’s not the way it is up here.

“They took advantage of every opportunity.”

And it added up to a lopsided loss for the Nitros, as Glendale was eliminated by Rio Mesa, 6-0, in the wild-card round of the CIF Southern Section Division IV tournament.

Last season, the Nitros lost in the wild-card round at Oxnard, 4-0. And, just like last season, Rio Mesa won a wild-card match and went from there all the way to a Division IV title.

The Spartans (14-7-2), the third-place squad from the Pacific View League, will now face Montview League champion Sierra Vista on Thursday, while the Nitros, after finishing fourth in the Pacific League, end their season at 15-9-2.

“I would say also we had a really good year,” Marroquin said. “We had a winning season.

“I’m proud.”

It was a season of peaks and valleys, however, with the latter obviously characterizing Tuesday.

Glendale began the season well, even advancing to the finals of the Ralph Brandt Tournament — which Marroquin is still hoping to play one of these days, as it was postponed due to rain. A lull during the early part of league forced the Nitros to come on full steam to get into the playoffs, but all that momentum did little on Tuesday against a Spartans squad that was a step faster and quicker throughout.

“[It’s a] good team overall from top to back,” Marroquin said. “Their shot ability, it was just really good.”

In the first half, Glendale held a slight possession advantage, but did little in the way of creating scoring chances, which was quite the contrary to Rio Mesa.

Dustin Figueroa scored in the 15th minute after a corner kick pinballed around and he booted in a low shot from roughly six feet away for a 1-0 lead.

Four minutes later, Jose Mendez, whose speed, in particular up top, plagued the Nitros all day, converted a Figueroa cross on a counter for a 2-0 advantage.

The Spartans would pile on four second-half goals, including two in the final minute as tensions arose, with the Nitros visibly frustrated and often times using physical play to combat Rio Mesa’s speed and skill advantage.

Having already lost three starters to red cards leading into the game as a result of some squabbles in the league finale against Hoover, Glendale lost two more players to red cards on Tuesday.

One was Johnathan Martinez, who basically tackled Michael Hernandez from behind on a breakaway after Hernandez had dribbled past Glendale keeper James Mizuki.

Mizuki made a dazzling diving save of Hernandez’ subsequent penalty kick attempt, but Hernandez followed and kicked in the rebound.

Despite giving up six goals, Mizuki was the Nitros’ biggest highlight, making six saves, including the penalty kick, another diving stop and one at point-blank range. Not to mention, most of the goals given up came on stellar shots.

In particular was Mendez’ second tally to go up, 3-0, when he curved a high shot from the left side, just inside the far post, ducking just under the crossbar and fitting into the corner.

Glendale was outshot, 24-6, with its only two second-half shots coming on free kicks.

In the first half, its best opportunity came when Joon Kim played a ball up to Levon Sargsyan who got off a strong, low shot that commanded a diving stop.

More than anything, the Spartans’ prowess up top wreaked havoc on the Nitros and created opportunity after opportunity.

“The adjustment just never came,” Marroquin said. “We told them at halftime, but the adjustment just never came.”

Glendale’s adjustment period will continue next year, as Marroquin bid farewell to 14 seniors.

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