LEMOORE — In nine games this season, Lemoore forward Josh Roa has been nothing short of a scoring machine and Tuesday’s matchup against Monache was no different.
Roa scored twice in Lemoore’s 3-1 victory and upped his total to 17 goals on the season before heading into the winter break. At almost two goals per game (1.89) Roa gave all credit to his teammates.
“It’s my team,” Roa said. “All the passing, all the assisting, without my team I’m not scoring any of these goals.”
The senior has also scored almost half of the team’s total goals (34) even after missing five games this season from injury and other conflicts. Roa has more than made up for his missed time and is doing all the little things as well: Passing, defending effectively and elevating his teammates.
“I don’t know what his college plans are, but he should be playing at the next level,” first-year Lemoore coach Eric Bow said. “He hits a ball unlike I’ve seen a lot of players do. He can hit it hard and he gets a lot of incredible movement on it.”
With Tuesday’s win, the Tigers moved to four games over .500 (9-5) and are in one of their best positions in years heading into the West Yosemite League schedule. The past two years they’ve been 6-7-2 (2016-2017) and 5-6-2 (2015-2016) before league play.
The last time they entered league play with a winning record was during the 2014-2015 season when they were 4-3-3. They ended the season 8-11-4 overall and 4-7-1 in the WYL.
And the last time Lemoore ended an entire season with a winning record, you have to reach all the way back to the 2008-2009 season — nine years ago — when they finished 14-8-2 and 5-5-2 in league.
For reference, 2008 was the year Barack Obama was elected as the 44th President of the United States and Apple had just opened the App Store in July. The current team was also between the ages of 6 and 9 back in 2008.
This time around, Lemoore is much more confident and ready to take advantage of the talent they have on their team. Their chemistry is allowing them to blossom offensively on the field and play within one another, while still allowing their individual selves to make plays.
“I feel like people sleep on us still, but we’ll see in our season,” Roa said.
Lemoore owned possession from the opening kickoff with Roa getting things started with a cross in the fifth minute. Forward Chase Garcia put a good touch on the ball, but Monache’s goalkeeper kept the game scoreless.
It was the first of eight shots on goal Lemoore would have in the first half with most of their possession spent in the attacking third.
Their attack paid off in the 12th minute when Roa got a pass from a teammate and found space from 20 yards out. His shot was right on target for a 1-0 lead.
It wasn’t long before the next goal when in the 15th minute Roa was fouled on a run in the attacking third. The referee gave him a free kick and Monache setup a wall.
“I saw a little opening on the right side so I curved it around and hit that bottom right,” Roa said.
His description didn’t do the beautiful goal justice as Roa took advantage of a sliver of space and bent the ball around and into the bottom corner of the goal. The perfectly placed shot earned them a 2-0 lead.
As the onslaught of attempts continued to rain down on Monache, Lemoore forward Jackson Fagundes found his moment in the 27th minute. Fagundes took a run down to the end line, moved past a couple defenders, got one defender spun around toward the goal line and angled the ball with his left foot for the 3-0 lead.
“He’s very good at taking a defender down to the line and then using his moves and then continuing toward the goal,” coach Eric Bow said. “I prefer a little better shot toward the center, but somehow they sneak those sharp angles in.”
The footwork was stellar and the finish was even better. Fagundes jokingly said, “I felt like Messi right now.”
The score stood at halftime and Lemoore had played 40 minutes of team soccer. They made the extra pass when it was needed and the individual footwork kept Monache off balance.
“We’ve all been playing on club teams and we’ve all known each other for a while,” Fagundes said about the team’s chemistry. “We all know who we are.”
The Tigers oozed confidence during the break and with good reason. They had allowed three shots on goal, but none were real scoring chances.
Lemoore wasn’t able to find a goal in the second half, but did make one defensive mistake, which allowed Monache an easy counter in the 57th minute. Aside from the error, Lemoore’s defensive third controlled the zone and allowed their teammates to play the majority of the second half from the middle third to the attacking third.
The Tigers had 20 shots and 12 shots on goal, while limiting Monache to eight shots and four shots on goal, including only one in the second half.
The team will now have their well-deserved winter break over the next two weeks. A couple of practices to keep the boys loose and conditioned will be the only things taking place.
When they return, Redwood (8-4-2, 2-0 WYL) will be waiting for them in their WYL home opener at 6 p.m. Jan. 3.
“We haven’t been in playoffs for a long time here at Lemoore High School and we’re four games above .500 going into the break into our league,” Bow said. “That’s a beautiful place to be.”