Great Bend senior midfielder Noel Rodriguez came up big three times over for the boys’ soccer team on Tuesday at Cavanaugh Field.
Rodriguez recorded a hat trick for the second straight game to lead the Panthers to a 5-2 win over Andover in the Class 5A South Central Region No. 2 semifinal game.
“Noel, he’s a captain,” Great Bend head coach Gus Prieto said. “He has a big responsibility with these guys. Today, he scored three goals, and he makes a difference. There are some players like Noel that can not always score, but when they have the ball, they can make a big difference.”
After a slow start where Great Bend struggled to control the ball, Rodriguez broke through the defense on an assist from Jose Mijares to score at the 25:52 mark.
“We started really slow,” Gus Prieto said. “I don’t know. I told them it doesn’t matter what their record is. We have to play hard, play together and score. I don’t think they were scared or nervous, but sometimes this just happens with these guys. After 15 to 20 minutes, they change. They started passing the ball, keeping the ball.”
He then broke through again with 6:20 remaining in the half. Rodriguez took a pass from Michael Prieto and took a hard shot that ricocheted off of a Trojans defender and into the goal.
The Panthers were up 2-0 at halftime.
Great Bend’s Alexander Urias made it 3-0 with a header off of an Enrique Guyton cross.
With 21:27 remaining, Great Bend’s leading goal-scorer this season Oscar Torres was given a red card for unsportsmanlike conduct. He will be suspended for the regional final on Thursday.
“In the second half, we were winning 3-0,” Gus Prieto said. “Oscar had some trouble with their defense, and I really didn’t see what happened. We got a red card, and that made it a little difficult for us. After that, playing with 10, we were controlling the ball. We made some long passes and made some chances to score.”
With one less player on the field, Andover began to attack the net hard, keeping better control of the ball.
The Trojans scored their first goal at the 17-minute mark on a long shot from Dallas Fiszel.
Rodriguez snapped the Panthers back to attention with his third goal of the game on a long pass from Mijares.
“It was a good goal, and it gave us another boost,” Rodriguez said. “We were a man down and my goal kind of pumped us up some more. If feels great, but the win is the most important thing, though.”
Javier Guerra scored the final goal for the Panthers, and Andover’s Benjamin Loflin scored in the final minutes to make it 5-2.
The Panthers host Hays, which beat Winfield 2-1 in double overtime in its regional semifinal match. The regional final will be on Thursday at 6 p.m. at Cavanaugh Field.
CLASS 5A REGION NO. 2
At Great Bend
Andover 0 2 — 2
Great Bend 2 3 — 5
First half — Great Bend: Noel Rodriguez (assist Jose Mijares), 15th minutes; Great Bend: Rodriguez (assist Michael Prieto), 34th
Second half — Great Bend: Alexander Urias (assist Enrique Guyton), 52nd; Andover: Dallas Fiszel, 63rd; Great Bend: Rodriguez (assist Mijares), 69th; Great Bend: Javier Guerra (assist Mijares), 75th; Andover: Benjamin Loflin, 75th