Upper Level: Youth Soccer Is Rolling Through Fall Season
That's not the train whistle blowing, it's the referee's whistle, but upper level soccer is rolling through the fall season like a freight train as Sandhills Youth Soccer League Challenge and Classic teams rumble into the final weeks of their seasons.
Sandhills Ajax enjoyed a pair of U14 Classic wins at home last weekend, rolling past Piedmont Triad Futbol Club White 5-1 on Saturday, then downing North Mecklenburg Black 4-1 on Sunday to run their season record to 6-1.
Walter Mejia registered an early goal for Ajax, capitalizing on a penalty kick awarded when Balyn Krout was tripped in the box a minute into the match. Piedmont responded three minutes later with a short shot for its only goal.
Krout and Mejia tag teamed for the tiebreaker when Krout connected off a rebound from Mejia's shot.
Mejia got the last touch with a header off Conner Riley's free kick in the final seconds of the opening period, spreading the gap to 3-1.
Ajax scored a pair of goals that put the match away at 5-1. Richard Palmer laid a long one in from 20 yards out on the right side, then Mejia grabbed the third piece of a hat trick on an unassisted breakaway goal.
David Alphin was in the goal for the duration, recording three saves.
Sunday's contest with North Meck, Mejia had the golden boot with another hat trick, going unassisted in the first half, then using his head for two goals in the second when he headed a deep cross from Gray Anderson, then pointed Riley's free kick for the final piece. Palmer accounted for the rest of the Ajax tally with a head shot off another Riley free kick. Alphin added 11 saves to his total.
Ajax assistant coach Rick Palmer lauded his team's accomplishments. "We've played fast-paced offense all year, and every game shows a tremendous defensive effort," he said. "Our consistent ball control has made all the difference."
Ajax has another double date this weekend taking on Futbol Club Carolina Alliance White on the road Saturday, then returning to Morganton Road to host Guilford United Soccer Club Red on Sunday. Ajax has accepted an invitation to play in the Capital Area Soccer League Shootout Tournament in November.
Dane Nelson notched a pair of points to give Sandhills Storm everything they needed to beach the Seaside Soccer League Net Rippers 2-0 in Sunday's U13 clash at Morganton Road.
Nelson struck from the penalty mark after Dustin Kavanaugh took a hit in the box three minutes into the second period, then converted a Zach Herbst pass from midfield for the deuce.
The visitors' one shot was handled by goalkeeper Mitchell Dotson. The win boosts Storm to 3-2-0 for some extra momentum on the road Sunday against Fuquay-VarinaAthletic Association Flash Red.
Sandhills Thunder continued their rampage through the U11 Challenge ranks with a 9-0 shellacking of Fayetteville Force on Sunday in Fayetteville. Thunder runs their record to 9-0 and has yet to be scored on this season.
Thunder kept the throttle idled back in the first half, scoring only three goals.
Katelyn Richard delivered the first strike, finding the net with an assist from MacKenzie Reed in the eighth minute.
Ten minutes later Mary Dixon pulled the trigger and hit the target after receiving a right to left cross from Kara Sheerin.
Sheerin capped the period with a steal near the eighteen and a slick move past a defender to drive in for the goal.
It was pedal to metal when the second half opened and Thunder attacked for six more goals.
Richard started things rolling again in the first two minutes, driving down the middle unassisted for the score.
If it works, try it again. That's what Abbey Crider did two minutes later when she took the same route down the middle and rippled the nets for another unassisted goal.
Dixon was in the right spot five minutes later, connecting on a rebound off the keeper from a shot by Hailey Robinson. Reed followed in the next minute, cashing in on a pair of second chance opportunities and scoring twice on keeper rebounds.
Anna Bridgman added the final touch for Thunder after Kaitlyn Newman worked the ball down the right side to open space to loft a pass to Bridgman, positioned in the mouth of the goal for the shot. Keepers Abbey Crider and Kara Sheerin split credit for the shutout, on a light duty day with the Force unable to complete a shot.
Thunder has an open date this week and an opportunity to catch their breath before traveling to Clayton to tangle with the Johnston Mustangs.
The old clich, "it's not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game" was never more appropriate than the U10 Challenge contest between Sandhills Celtic and Fayetteville Force United at the Jordan Soccer Complex in Fayetteville. Celtic didn't win the game, but they showed grit, determination and character in a 4-1 contest played without substitutes against a strong opponent backed by five on the bench.
Fourteen shots fired by the Force kept Celtic goalie Sam Kruyer on his toes for the duration as he recorded 10 saves.
Defenders Jonah Saunders and Gates blunted the Fayetteville attack and forwards Christopher Kelly, Chase Nelsen and Zach Martinez pumped in 22 shots in the attacking third. Martinez connected in the second half and avoided a shutout on a second effort tip scored off a rebound on a keeper block.
Celtic needed a win at home against Fuquay-Varina Athletic Association Flash White to boost their 2-3-0 standing to .500 in a Sunday match at Morganton Road. It looked like they would get it after taking a 2-1 first-half lead.
Nelsen connected on a direct kick for the green team's first point, then laid a cross in front of Hector Cuevas, who drilled the second goal. Flash pulled to within one before the break, then slipped another shot through in the second half to knot things up at 2-2, a tie that would stand until the final whistle.
Kruyer had nine saves in the goal for Celtic on a busy day that saw nine shots launched for Celtic and 15 for Flash. Celtic take the pitch this weekend against hometown opponent SYSL Shock.
The Sandhills Cyclones rolled past Triangle Futbol Club White 6-0 in Saturday's U13 Classic road game, but it took an extra push from the offense to overpower Capital Area Soccer League United White 2-1 in Sunday's duel at Morganton Road.
Kathryn Palmer accounted for half the point production against TFC, recording a hat trick with two assists from Keegan Lynch along with a solo run up the right side.
Allison Parziale made it look easy when she dribbled up the middle midway through the first half and deposited the ball in the goal for the unassisted score. Colleen Kaiser opened the second half for the Cyclones with a bomb dropped in over the keeper's head from twenty-five yards out.
Heather Brock notched a point for the Cyclones when she relayed a through pass from Megan Thomas to the back of the net. Jordan Bridgman and Lauren Hansen recorded six saves in a joint effort in the goal.
It took some added offensive effort to squeeze a win from CASL White, but the Cyclones had what was needed.
Keegan Lynch put the Cyclones on the scoreboard with a pinpoint shot following Kathryn Palmer's perfect cross from the right sideline. The Cyclones clinched the match in the second half when Palmer was fouled, setting up a free kick. Megan Thomas arched the kick in to Lauren Hanson as she streaked in from the left side for the conversion.
Credit goes to Keegan Cary, Jessie Wilson and Allison Parziale for a strong defensive stand in front of goalkeeper Jordan Bridgman that held the CASL squad to one goal.
Newcomers Hailey Crider, Colleen Kaiser, Katie Kerns, Jennie Cunningham and Brittany Keyser are proving to be a key ingredient in the Cyclone recipe for success with solid quality play in an overall team effort.
The Cyclones, now 4-1-1, travel to Fayetteville on Saturday to challenge Fayetteville Force Premier.
Sandhills Shock made a valiant attempt to overcome a three-point half time deficit against Fayetteville Force Premier, but fell short 3-2 in last Sunday's U10 Challenge meeting in Fayetteville.
Fayetteville surprised Shock with an early goal in the first half, and then found the net twice more before the break to lead 3-0. Shock shut out Fayetteville in the second half and narrowed the gap with goals by Jack Hoy and Kyle Corbett, but time and wet weather won at the end when Shock fell short by a goal.
Hoy and Nick Conti split time in the box with a combined ten saves.
Shock faces fellow SYSL club Sandhills Celtic this weekend at Morganton Road.
For more results, see Sunday's edition of The Pilot.
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