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Calistoga boys soccer gets revenge against Making Waves

The Calistoga boys soccer team exorcised some demons on Monday night.

The Wildcats defeated Making Waves Academy 3-1 in front of a sizable crowd at Logvy Park behind a hat trick from senior Abad Cuenca, whose third and final goal came in the closing minutes to seal the win.

The game was officially a friendly and won’t count towards the Wildcats’ North Central League II record.

But the game did alleviate some weight from the shoulders of head coach Danny Almanza and some of his veteran players.

Calistoga and Making Waves have a bit of a history since Almanza took over in 2016. It was in that year in the North Coast Section Div. II section semifinal playoff game that the top-seeded Marlins came from behind and spoiled an upset effort from the third-seeded Wildcats, scoring the game-tying goal in the final minute of regulation before scoring the game-winning goal only minutes before the second overtime came to a close.

The Wildcats had a chance at revenge in 2017, but settled for a 2-2 tie.

Then, Monday night happened. The Wildcats jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead after three minutes and carried a 2-1 lead into halftime.

Like their other meetings, this game was a back-and-forth affair. Each team had multiple chances at goal, yet were mostly even until the end.

Feeling the pressure in the second half, Making Waves turned up the intensity and attacked every chance it could. The Marlins had good looks at goal in the 50th, 54th, 61st and 74th minutes, but every shot either sailed wide or was saved by Wildcats junior goalkeeper Jose Lopez.

Even with a 2-1 advantage, Almanza’s thoughts wandered back to that fateful 2016 playoff game.

“Especially when we were only up one goal, it kind of brings back a lot of memories,” he said, “like ‘Oh shoot, here we go again.’”

Almanza could only watch as his team matched the Marlins’ second-half intensity, until the Wildcats finally broke through in the closing minutes. In the 77th minute, Cuenca received the ball on the left side of the field with only two men to beat and took off. He broke past them both and tucked his shot just past the Marlins goalkeeper.

Almanza let out a sigh of relief, while the Wildcat players buried Cuenca under a dog pile near the goal.

“You saw how the guys celebrated that last goal,” Almanza said. “We don’t normally celebrate because we try to stay humble, but their emotions got them on that last one so they just let go and celebrated. A bunch of the guys are still on the team from that game (in 2016), so I guess there was a little sense of revenge.”

One of those players is Cuenca, who has now scored five goals against Making Waves in his last two games. He was a sophomore on that 2016 team and Monday was the first time he has beaten the Marlins in his high school career.

“I feel pretty proud about this game today,” Cuenca said.

He scored his first goal on a break-away in the third minute and got his second in the 25th after a cross bounced right to his feet, which he then deposited into the back of the net.

The Marlins had tied the game in the 20th minute, but Cuenca’s goal in the 25th gave Calistoga the advantage going into halftime. At the break, Almanza told his team to keep the same energy it had to open the game, knowing from previous matchups with the Marlins that they would come out firing.

The Wildcats heeded his words, and 40 minutes later left the field in a celebration.

“I felt that this year, we’d be able to get an edge on them, especially because we remember their playing style and we try to use that knowledge to our advantage,” Almanza said. “But every game is different, and even this game was different from the other two in Richmond. But I feel like my guys had a good spirit from the beginning of the game.”

With the Marlins now off their back, the Wildcats have a renewed sense of confidence heading into the latter half of their schedule. Even though this was a non-league matchup, Calistoga still holds the top spot in the NCL II with a 5-1-1 record.

If they make the section playoffs, which they should, they may face the Marlins again. But this time, they know they’ll be ready.

“If we play against them, we have better information now,” said Cuenca.

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Sports Reporter