Patriot District First Round

Lancers Season Over
Lee falls in first round of Patriot District soccer tourney.
By John C. Marcario
May 17, 2007

From 2001 to 2004, West Springfield dominated the boys soccer scene. They won three Virginia AAA state titles in four years and lost a total of three games in those championship years.
The past two seasons have been struggles for the Spartans, per their early decade standard. They have failed to win a Patriot District crown and have won two regional tournament games. The Spartans have not played in a state tournament game since their 2004 championship team.
This season the tide appears to be turning. They won the regular season Patriot District crown over Lake Braddock and they easily handled their first round tournament game against Lee, winning 4-1 and automatically advancing to the Northern Region tournament.
“It’s really up to them. The sky is the limit with this group,” said head coach Andy Saffron. His Spartans (8-1-5 overall, 6-0-1 Patriot District) have not lost since a 2-1 setback to Woodson on March 22 and they are riding a 11 game unbeaten streak. For Lee, the season ended in disappointing fashion as the Lancers mustered a total of four shots on goal.
“We just were not competitive enough this season,” said Lee Head Coach Arni Sepehri.

WEST SPRINGFIELD fired 21 shots at Lee goalkeeper Matt Lindberg, who seemed to get frustrated after the Spartans scored two quick goals. One minute into the game, the Spartans Bayron Gudiel scored off a cross from Tyler Bitancurt. Nine minutes later Bitancurt scored off a corner kick when Lindberg misplayed the ball.
The junior also tallied another goal in the second half off a pretty pass from Colin Embrey.
“We have to get respect and the only way to do that was win big in the first round,” Bitancurt said. Kai Eckenrode also scored for the Spartans.
Saffron said he has noticed a change in his team's intensity level in practice over the past few days. “They have gotten refocused,” said Saffron, who noted that winning the regular season crown was a confident booster to his team going into postseason play.
Lee meanwhile was playing the game without one of its top offensive threats — junior forward Ian Ross. “He was dismissed from the team for violating team rules,” said Sepehri, who noted that Ross handed in his equipment last week.

SEPEHRI TOOK the Lee job two years ago and said he wanted the program to be competitive by 2008. Last season, the Lancers made the regional tournament and finished the year with a .500 record. They took a step back this season, though, finishing at the bottom of the Patriot District standings and bowing out in the first round of district play.
“I need to guide them to grow technically and fundamentally,” Sepehri said.
Academics also plagued Lee this season as a handful of players could not play this season due to being ineligible. “I will make a personal effort to keep a close eye on that,” Sepehri said.
Lee fielded a young team this year with a pair of seniors on the roster. Against West Springfield Darwin Bangas tallied the lone goal in the 78th minute.

NOTE: West Springfield’s second round game ended too late for this edition.

© 2007 Lee High School


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