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Buffs bravely battle on foreign turf

Madras struggles on astro turf in playoff game against Cottage Grove Lions

by: Photo By Christina M. Crockett - Madras midfielder Kevin Hernandez, right, fights for control of the ball with Cottage Grove's Manuel Soto in last Tuesday's second round playoff game in Cottage Grove. In a hard fought game, the Lions defeated Madras, 3-1.

It was a defensive battle last Tuesday night when the White Buffalo soccer team faced the Cottage Grove Lions in the second round of the Class 3A boys soccer playoffs in Cottage Grove.
   In a back and forth game, the Buffs slipped to the Lions, 3-1, and were eliminated from advancing in the postseason. It was one of the first times the White Buffalos played on astro turf, a factor which Madras head coach Paul Brown said played a significant role in the loss.
   "The astro turf had a strong affect on the game. The ball moved very quickly; quicker than we're used to playing with and we weren't ready for it," noted Brown. "It's one of those things, that had we played on a grass field, the game would have been different."
   Madras also suffered minor injuries throughout the game, having to pull key players at crucial points in the game. However, Coach Brown was pleased with how his players from the bench handled the intensity of the game. During the second half, Alex Bivian collided with the Lion's goalkeeper in a goal attempt and was kicked hard in the back side of his shin, forcing him to be helped off the field. Despite the injury, Bivian recovered without incident.
   Starting defender Carlos Leal also was injured in the first half, but later came back in during the second. Coach Brown praised the efforts of Anthony Leach, who came in off the bench for Leal and said the Madras player did a great job on the field.
   Throughout the game, both teams fought hard for control of the ball and neither team scored until the last 10 minutes of the first when White Buffalo Ivan Alonso sent the ball inside the net on a corner kick with 11:03 remaining on the clock. Minutes later, the Lions answered back to score with 9:25 left in the half.
   Madras made three other goal attempts before the half was up. However, the Lions' goalkeeper was quick on saves and sent Madras back to midfield empty handed.
   Madras defenders Luke Telfer and Daniel Mora executed some key plays by controlling the ball for Madras at crucial moments of the game and helped keep the Lions at bay.
   With a 1-1 halftime tie, the White Buffalos came to the sidelines tired but hopeful. In playing on the astro turf against a team that was strategic in passing, the Buffs expended much of their energy in the first half.
   "Cottage Grove controlled the ball well in passing. We pushed really hard in the first half, so with the way the ball travelled on the astro turf, they (the Buffs) exerted a lot of energy. We controlled the ball in their (the Lions) field, but in the second half, we go tired and couldn't get back into their passing lines," said Coach Brown, who after halftime, sent the Buffs back to the soccer field reminding the Madras team that they couldn't make any mistakes in the second in order to pull off a victory.
   But the Buffs' exhaustion was apparent in the second half, as the Lions manuevered around Madras in their attempts to score. However, White Buffalo goalkeeper Joey Lopez was keen on saves early in the half, sending the ball back into play.
   With 24 minutes left to play, Alonso once again found the ball and made a close goal attempt when the ball bounced off the edge of the goal post.
   After two more failed goal attempts on Madras, Cottage Grove found a hole in the net to score with 14:03 left on the clock to pull ahead, 2-1. Minutes later, still playing hard against the tiring Buffs, the Lions scored their final goal with 10:23 on the clock.
   The White Buffalos didn't give up, however, as senior midfielder Marcus Zacarias attempted to score on a pass from Alonso.
   In addition to playing on the astro turf and exerting much of their energy during the first half, the valley weather was cold and wet for the White Buffalos, also affecting their performance.
   "In the last 20 minutes of the game, (the Buffs) got tired. They are not used to being in those kinds of conditions," noted Brown. "We played a strong ball game all the way through, we just had a couple mistakes."
   The fact that the Buffs had a week of rest and Cottage Grove had two also played a significant role in the outcome of the game, according to Coach Brown, who believed had the Buffs faced the Lions earlier in the week, things may have been different.
   "If we had played within that first week, it would have been better for us. Basically we had four games within a seven day span, which we were getting used to and we were handling it well," said Brown. "If we had the opportunity to play sooner, we would have a slightly different change (in the outcome)."
   The White Buffalos improved their game this season, as last year Madras was eliminated from the post season after the first round of the playoffs. Receiving a bye in round one this year, the Buffs finished the year with a 9-5 overall record and made it to the second round of the Class 3A state boys soccer playoffs.