Ruiz notches hat trick, praises new coach Brown in Valley win over Rochester
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
AKRON — Jonathan Ruiz scored three goals, and Christian Ramirez had two goals and an assist for the Tippecanoe Valley boys soccer team in an 8-2 win over visiting Rochester on Sept. 14.
Freshman Andreas Rosas had a goal and three assists, and Gio Arriaga added a goal and two assists. Eric Eikenberry, a junior who played for Rochester the past two years before transferring, had a goal and an assist against his former team.
Valley, who jumped out to a 4-0 lead, improved to 6-3 overall and 2-3 in the Three Rivers Conference.
“It feels great to help the team get this win,” Ruiz said. “We showed that we wanted it more than Rochester. And we kind of felt like we were favorites going into the game, and we just got the job done.”
Mitchell Shafer scored on a penalty kick, and R.J. Keranko also scored for the Zebras, who fell to 3-8-1 overall and 0-4 in the TRC.
Two days after praising his team's effort in a home loss in penalty kicks to Peru, Rochester coach Eric Backus was more critical, saying that the team “didn’t show up to play tonight.”
“We did a lot of ball watching and didn’t stay marked on our guys like we were supposed to and had a lot of guys run free,” Backus said. “They took a lot of shots on goal, and they capitalized on a lot of them. Really kind of bummed out as a coaching staff coming from a Monday night game where we played so tough and faced adversity and didn't give in and just battled and battled and battled and took a team to PKs and had a couple of unlucky breaks that cost us the Peru game, and then we show up tonight and it was pretty ugly.
“I’m doing my best to stay calm, but that was pretty frustrating to watch. … We’re going to fix it. They may not like me tomorrow night, but we’re going to fix it.”
Facing a barrage of shots, Parker Wallace had 16 saves for the Zebras. He drew the praise of Valley coach Trevor Brown, who said that Wallace “came up with some ridiculous, ridiculous saves” and called him “one of the best keepers in the state.”
Brown figures to know Wallace better than most opposing goalkeepers. Brown was the Rochester coach from 2006-20 and coached Wallace during his freshman year.
In his first season as Valley coach, he still teaches at Rochester.
From a strategic standpoint, he wants his players finding gaps in the defense.
“Offensively, we like to beat guys down the line and lay balls off to the middle, but it’s more of a possession, work the ball around, find the gaps,” Brown said of his new players. “We try to be patient. I’ve got some really good strikers that have got a lot of good pace. I think we’re a tough matchup offensively.”
Ramirez and Arriaga run the flanks of the Valley offense. Ruiz and Rosas, who are cousins, often set them up.
“Christian Ramirez and Gio Arriaga on the flanks, they have a lot of pace and a lot of talent,” Brown said. “A lot of skill. And really, through our whole midfield, Eric Eikenberry up top and Jonathan Ruiz I felt like really controlled the middle of the pitch. And yeah, we’ve got a bunch of good athletes. We’ve got a bunch of good athletes on the back line. And they’re just so talented, and they like each other. They play well together. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Ruiz said his team has a lot of ways to attack an opposing defense. He said the offense relies on its “fluidity.” He said he was surprised when Luce told the team he was resigning but praised Brown for what he has added.
“Coach Brown has helped us be disciplined a lot honestly,” Ruiz said. “Coming into the season, we didn’t know what to expect with a new coach. Coach Luce leaving unexpectedly, honestly, for all of us. We thank coach Luce with everything, but Brown has come in and disciplined us … and we’re starting to show what we actually have.”
Brown took over the Rochester program as it made the transition from club team to varsity program.
He’s taking over Valley at a different stage. The program began eight years ago, and he is building on a program that Mark Gordon and Andrew Luce started.
“I kind of got a gift here at Valley,” Brown said. “These kids have a high soccer IQ. The kids at Rochester now do, so don’t get me wrong on that, but when we first started at Rochester, there wasn’t a lot of soccer experience. These kids, they’ve played for a long time.
“So it’s a little different. We can be a little more creative. We can be a little more tactical and a little more, I guess, flavor in our attack and a little more nuanced in our game style.”