Sterling entered Tuesday night’s Western Big Six Conference soccer match at Rock Island riding a six-game run of shutouts.
The Rocks ended that in less than 30 seconds.
Nsengiyumva Landy drilled a curving shot into the right side of the net to give Rocky the early edge in a 7-0 win in which seven different Rocks scored.
Both teams entered on seven-game unbeaten streaks, but it was the Rocks (9-1-1, 5-0 Big Six) who march on and remain at the top of the conference standings with Quincy. Sterling fell to 7-6-2, 2-3 Big Six.
Rocky coach Rudy Almanza continues to be thrilled when talking about his Rocks, who have been clicking offensively and defensively. Landry’s quick goal took off any pressure that may have existed.
“This is a special team right here,” said Almanza. “We’re attacking from all angles and they’re really starting to understand each other as one unit.”
Peter Kimba scored in the 19th minute as Rocky led 2-0 at halftime. Isaac Almanza, Murad Ahmed, Logan Pearce, Libio Vargas, and Jordan Rice added goals in the final 16 minutes.
If the variety of Rocky’s goal-scoring wasn’t already apparent, Rice added the final goal on a throw-in in the closing minutes.
"That was the first time I've ever done that," Rice said. "I honestly didn't think it was going to go in."
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Rocky keepers Ben Samuelson and Michael Machuca both notched impressive one-on-one saves in the shutout, keeping the Golden Warriors, led by senior standout forward Adrian Herrera, off the board.
Coach Almanza said RI's homefield advantage on the turf of Almquist Field brings an additional source of pride on defense.
“They don’t want anybody to touch the final third,” coach Almanza said. “They’re anxious to get it up into our final third and away from the defensive side.”
Almanza’s luxury of being able to shuffle players from midfield to defense and all over the field keeps things fresh.
“We have some fast defenders, especially in the middle,” Almanza said. “Having (Peter) Kimba back there and Edwin Beltran and Osvaldo (Perez) and Zach (Beckman), I feel pretty comfortable and confident with those guys.”
Isaac Almanza said playing as a team and avoiding getting cocky has helped fuel the current run.
“We’ve just been putting in hard work … It’s comfortable knowing that anyone on the team can score,” he said. “We don’t really focus on the future, we just go game by game.”
Sterling’s fifth-year coach Brian Cebula said giving up the early goal came as a bit of a shock after the string of clean sheets.
“We weren’t ready to match the intensity that Rock Island was going to bring today,” Cebula said, who added that matching the speed of one of the top teams they’ve played so far was difficult. “They played really well, and showed us some things we need to work on if we’re going to be competitive in the Big 6.”