On a bone-chilling afternoon, it was all about mental toughness and a positive state of mind. The calendar read September, but the 39-degree chill temperature felt like November. A brisk 26 mph north wind chilled a 46-degree day at Cavanaugh Field.
Great Bend rallied past Western Conference rival Hays High 4-1 to warm the heart of Panther soccer coach Jesus Loera, Jr.
The Panthers trailed 1-0 despite controlling time of possession. Hays Indian Trayton Roa rocketed a downwind shot from 30 yards past goalie Edwin Chavez for a 1-0 lead.
But Panther Johnathan Pasos scored the equalizer on a perfectly crafted shot that used the north wind to slip past Hays goalie Alex Cano. Crisitian Ruiz fed Pasos a centering pass with 33 seconds left in the first half.
The Panthers drew to a 1-1 tie after heading into the stiff north breeze.
"We've played a few games with wind like that. Neither team has an advantage because both teams will play with the wind for a half," Loera said. "Our goal is to make the least amount of mistakes and stay under control. We played from behind that first half. But Johnny Pasos brought some energy back our way. It took us 20 minutes to really get going that second half."
The Panthers kept pressuring, keyed by the northerly wind.
"You can do more things with the wind," Loera said. "We prefer to play with the wind the second half, so the wind can pick us up some if we start feeling tired."
The strategy worked to perfection as the Panthers eventually wore down the Indians' defense in the final minutes. Jaime Arellanes, Alex Galindo and Ruiz kept pressuring.
"We worked the ball against their defense to create some good opportunities," Loera said. "We eventually made some plays in their back third. We embrace the fact that we score 'team' goals. We took advantage of our opportunities."
Carlos Soto delivered the second assist that Alex Galindo converted at the 12:09 mark. Gustavo Alvarado scored the third goal with a perfectly curved shot with the wind that beat the goalie Cano with 7:30 left. Mario Arias finished off four consecutive goals with a second effort goal at the 3:12 mark.
Loera said backup defensive center backs Salvador Garcia and Juan Sanchez filled in admirably with solid play.
"Our center backs Garcia and Sanchez gave us excellent play," Loera said. "They gave us exactly what we needed on defense. They took advantage of their playing time."
Loera said he likes the offensive and defensive balance the Panthers (2-1) have shown after opening with a loss at Manhattan.
"They are doing a great job with their effort and composure," Loera said. "We had an idea we'd have success, but the guys are doing a nice job working together. It's the first time in a long time we've beaten WAC teams in back-to-back games."
The Panthers travel to Hays High Sept. 15.