Vipers, Arsenal Jump-Start Spring Soccer Season
The Sandhills Vipers were one of the first teams out of the gate for a chilly start on the spring upper-level soccer season, splitting a doubleheader Saturday at Morganton Road.
It was a cold start for the U12 (boys' team) Vipers in an 8-0 loss to Capital Area Soccer League's Elite White, but the team warmed up in the second game and muzzled the Wilson Explosion 3-2.
CASL White pounded the Vipers for seven goals in the first period. The Vipers found the brakes in the second half, holding White to one goal, but came up short in the offensive third.
Game two started out on the same note, with the Explosion racking up a pair of goals in the first 15 minutes of play. But the Vipers began climbing out of the hole when John Roger Moore booted a direct kick from 20 yards out, to put the home team on the board and within a point at the break.
With the fires stoked, the Vipers delivered the equalizer in the second period when Corey Efird kicked a pass out to Adam Howard on the right wing. Howard's low burner to the right post found the mark to knot things up at 2-all with 10 minutes left on the clock.
Six minutes later, Jake Harbeck collected the ball in open space and broke down the left side to punch in the tiebreaker and clinch the win.
Chris Broughton handled the goalkeeping duties for the Vipers.
The next date on the Viper calendar is on the road against CASL Premier Black on March 3.
The Sandhills Arsenal, a U-15 boys' classic soccer team with the Sandhills Youth Soccer League (SYSL), performed quite well in three key events leading up to its spring season. As a result of last season's excellent play, the team was promoted to NCYSA first division, marking only the third older boys' team in SYSL history to earn this distinction. This team has competed together for over five years and most of the players played together in the fall at Pinecrest High School and O'Neal School soccer teams. In preparing for the higher level of play, coaches Caleb Miles and Mike Reilly entered the team in events featuring only first division teams from across the state.
A new one-day event that featured play at multiple age and gender level matches from two competitive leagues -- SYSL and nearby Fayetteville Soccer Club -- matched longtime rivals Sandhills Arsenal against FSC Premier U-15 team. Behind two goals from Nick Cerasso, the Arsenal started its preseason with a convincing 2-1 victory over a talented foe. Midfielders Tyler Herbst, Sam Ivey, Dillon Maples, Max Brenner and Neal Lewis helped controlled the tempo of the game and provided the Arsenal with a strong advantage in possession time, a key to the victory.
In late January, the team traveled to Charleston, S.C., to compete in the James Island Soccer Festival, and succeeded in reaching the Sunday finals with a key 2-1 victory over a first division Matthews United team that had defeated the Arsenal in round-robin play on Saturday by the same score 2-1. The finals proved to be a tougher challenge, as the Arsenal lost a difficult match to Triangle United 2-0, with little time to rest after the exciting semifinal win. Over the weekend, goals were scored by Thomas Goulden, Maples, Ryan Osterman, Cerasso and Aaron Stroker. Assists were credited to Goulden and Taylor Miles. Joining Miles and Goulden in the back with goalie Dillon Hasson to provide stellar defense were Dylan Cole and Hiro Sato.
Providing even stiffer competition for the Arsenal was the only SYSL boys' team accepted to play in the highly competitive Triangle Futbol Club Friendlies, featuring teams from across the country. Playing with only 13 players because of illnesses, the Arsenal nonetheless finished the weekend with a very respectable 1-1-1 record. The Friendlies, as the name implies, are comprised of high-level scrimmages only, with no brackets, or advancement to semifinals or finals. The event also features a college coaches' showcase for older teams, so they can observe and recruit players for college soccer.
After giving up a sensation goal in the first half of the first match, the Arsenal fought back for a thrilling 2-1 victory over host Triangle Futbol Club Navy on Saturday. The team then played to a draw against a powerful CASL Premier team, 1-1, with Sandhills goalie Hasson and defenders Miles, Goulden, Osterman, Ethan Kavanaugh and Ivey standing down a dozen quality attacks on goal by their talented opponents. Goulden provided an exceptional goal on a set piece that he buried in the upper-left corner to cement the tie.
Sunday's match against a very physical Charlotte Soccer Club "A" team that drew five yellow cards, proved too much for the smaller Arsenal as they fell 2-1, but learned a valuable lesson about playing bigger aggressive teams that the squad will see often in first division. Other goal scorers for the weekend included Stroker and Miles. Excellent midfield play was turned in by Herbst, Cerasso and Maples, while forwards Stroker, Will Rittenhouse and Dana Parziale applied creative pressure on goal the entire weekend.
The final tally for the preseason was a very respectable 3-3-2 record.
The Arsenal begins its regular-season play this weekend with matches against club teams associated with the Triangle Futbol Club and CASL. Both games are slated for the Morganton Road Soccer Complex, with 2 p.m. starts on Saturday and Sunday.
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