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Soccer season kicks off

The Russellville Golden Tigers took the soccer field at RHS recently to start the 2019 season with high expectations.

This year, Russellville has added a JV program for boys and girls to go along with the varsity squads, and all four teams kicked off their seasons on the home turf.

Hartselle came to town Feb. 14 for a couple of girls’ games, and Russellville played the visiting Tigers to a 0-0 tie in varsity action and a 2-2 draw in the JV contest.

“Hartselle is a very talented, solid 6A soccer program. They always have been and always will be. We couldn’t ask for a better performance,” said Russellville coach Trey Stanford.

With RHS adding a junior varsity program this season, Stanford said assistant head coach Fred Ambrosio has pretty much taken over the girls’ teams, while he works with the boys’ squads. “I can’t express enough how great of a job Fred Ambrosio has done with these girls,” Stanford said. “There is a night-and-day difference from when we started the program two years ago.”

In the varsity game, Russellville was tested on defense for most of the night. The Golden Tigers played well, led by junior goal-keeper Briana Ramirez. She had 24 saves in the game, including multiple stops early in the match.

“On varsity, they are improving, but we’re still lacking that last touch,” Ambrosio said. “Defensively, we’re strong right now because of the keeper. She’s a great keeper, and our strikers are very young. We have an eighth-grader and a 10th-grader as striker, and we are building up. Our girls have that heart.”

Feb. 18 the RHS boys hosted a talented St. John Paul Catholic II team from Huntsville. Russellville entered the game ranked No. 10 in 4A-5A, while the Falcons held a No. 7 ranking. JPII entered the varsity game with confidence, having defeated No. 5 Arab earlier in the week.

The two teams looked to be evenly matched, and they played to a 1-1 tie in front of a good crowd considering the cold weather conditions. Russellville dominated the JV game, taking the win by a 4-1 score.

In the varsity match, both teams had scoring chances in the first half but couldn’t find the back of the net. With 18:33 remaining in the game, Michael Weston scored the first goal of the game on a free kick. The goal was the only one given up by Russellville keeper Daniel Martinez.

Time was running out on the RHS’ hopes of victory, but then the young freshmen duo of Vicente Machic and Juan Cano put together a nice play, and Cano scored the equalizer, making it 1-1 with 5:14 remaining in the game. The two teams then battled for the win, but time expired with the scored tied.

“We’ve got some talent, and we’ve got some guys that can play,” Stanford said. “I look forward to seeing what we can do after we get in better shape and they start figuring each other out a little more.”