The Derby Panthers took the Titan Classic Tournament title with a win against Bishop Carroll on Sept. 11. After a 0-0 tie in regulation, the Panthers (5-0) took a 4-3 win in penalty kicks to win Derby’s first Titan Classic crown.
“Just to win a tournament is great,” head coach Paul Burke said. “The way we looked at it was like a mini-tournament week. It is not state, but it is some of the pressure like it. We wanted to see how our players reacted to some added pressure. The result was amazing, and I’m proud of our guys for working hard and stepping up to the plate.”
With the late-summer heat and signature Kansas wind a key factor, both teams emphasized possession throughout the match. Neither team could capitalize on the few scoring chances. The championship came down to penalty kicks, with the game tied 0-0 at the end of regulation.
Derby opted to kick second and jumped out to an early lead in the second round of penalties with a save by Xhavier “Gato” Vaquera.
Caleb Day, Cole Dubois, Andy Denesongkham and Scott Simmons went perfect in penalty kicks to give the Panthers the lead heading into the final round. The final attempt by Bishop Carroll hit the crossbar to seal the game for Derby.
After last year’s tournament was canceled due to COVID restrictions, teams were relieved to return to Wichita South for the latest installment of the Titan Classic.
“It’s awesome just to play in the tournament; we didn’t get to play last year,” Burke said. “We treated it like a mini playoff where every game matters where you move on to the next game.”
The Panthers cruised to a 7-0 win over Salina Central on Sept. 6 in a game that saw multiple players gain some playing time. Five different players found the net, including two goals apiece from Dubois and Armin Almasinya.
Derby defeated Great Bend 3-1 on Sept. 8, with an opening goal by Rigo Salazar and two goals from Diego Vaquera to set up a matchup with Bishop Carroll in the championship.
The Panthers got to see flashes of offense that was a huge question mark heading into the season. Vaquera led the charge with three goals in the tournament, but seeing multiple players has been a positive aspect for Burke.
“Through five games, we have scored 15 goals, and we only scored 29 goals all of last year,” Burke said. “We have increased the volume and the diversity. We have different people scoring. We are not relying on just a couple of players.”
For Burke, the depth on the roster was a positive element to see out of the tournament, but consistency is the biggest question mark throughout the season.
“The biggest thing that we saw that will help us is depth. I would say something we have to work on is consistency. Can the consistency be there every game?”