West Springfield 4,
First Colonial 0
Perhaps overlooked in the shuffle of taller, high-flying athletes on the West Springfield boys' soccer team is Juan Pabon Gomez. The 5-foot-6 junior forward may not get noticed as he patrols the field without the ball. But once he has possession, his ball control skills -- and his electric yellow cleats -- force defenders and fans to pay undivided attention.
Last night in No. 1 West Springfield's 4-0 Virginia AAA quarterfinal victory over visiting First Colonial, Pabon Gomez got a lot of attention and still had two assists and a goal to lead the Spartans to the state semifinals. West Springfield (18-1) had a 3-0 lead by the 53rd minute.
"I don't know what it is, but we seem to be coming together and everyone is working as a team," said Pabon Gomez, whose grandparents, Gabriel and Amira Gomez, attended the game after flying from his native Colombia on Sunday for a wedding. "I've been in the background this season because I sprained my knee last year and I was playing scared, but I think I am getting more confident."
West Springfield advanced to Friday's semifinal round at Christopher Newport University, where the Spartans will play in a 6 p.m. match against Clover Hill. First Colonial of Virginia Beach ended its season at 16-5-2.
Pabon Gomez made a short pass to junior midfielder Ben Phan, who tapped the ball into the right corner in the ninth minute to make it 1-0.
First Colonial was outshot 4-0 in the game's first 20 minutes, but the Patriots created several chances in the five minutes before halftime. The best chance came when junior midfielder Jonathan Pantalo's right-curving free kick flew a foot over the crossbar.
Pabon Gomez scored the second goal in the 45th minute and got his ninth assist of the year, this one going to Jeff Kawamoto, seven minutes later.
"We were flat the whole game, and they controlled the middle against us and just overall harassed us up and down the field," said First Colonial senior forward Rob Gordon, who had 28 goals this year. "I had heard that [West Springfield] was a storied program, and I think we played like we were a little scared."
Sophomore forward Jeff Czajkowski was the fourth Spartan to score when he notched a goal in the 78th minute. It was West Springfield's 13th shutout of the season and the Spartans have outscored their last five postseason opponents, 18-1.
"I really don't have an answer for why we are scoring so much in the postseason, but I can say that we have been working on different things [such as attacking the goal from different angles] in practice," West Springfield Coach Randy May said. "We have a balanced offense. I think we are not a one-dimensional team."