Late Goal Propels UP Soccer
Monday in Sanford, Union Pines soccer sent a strong signal to the rest of the teams in Cape Fear Valley, collecting a crucial 2-1 conference victory over the Southern Lee Cavaliers in a soccer showdown.
Union Pines scored the first goal of the game when Va Cha belted the ball by the keeper on a throw-in from his brother Allen midway through the first half. With less than two minutes remaining in the opening half, Southern Lee tied the score on a goal by Johnny Aguirre.
Allen Cha delivered the game-winning score for the Vikes late in the second half he when blasted a shot from 26 yards out that bounced off the Cavalier keeper and into the net.
For Vike midfielder Allen Cha, his team is everything.
"I felt really good when that goal went in," he said, "just to help get a conference win and I did it for the team. I looked up and saw the keeper coming up so I decided to hit it. I was able to set the shot perfect, kept focused on where I was going to strike it and then I just hit it (and it went in).
Union Pines dominated the first 30 minutes of the match as their back four did a great job of making timely clears and kicking the ball away when it needed to. Fullbacks Brian Hayes and Cannon Walden each had particularly strong games in the back for the Vikings.
"Cannon (Walden) was on tonight," said senior captain Brian Hayes. "He was getting stuck in on tackles and was stepping with the rest of the back four he was right there with us and he was not afraid to get in there and mix things up. We really needed that tonight and he did a great job with balls in the air, coming in on 50/50s."
A mental miscue by Union Pines' senior keeper Aaron Moore led to Aguirre's goal just before the first half ended. Instead of slowing the match down by punting a long ball downfield Moore played a ball out to a Vike defender, which allowed the Cavs both the time and opportunity for a late look that they capitalized on.
"Aaron made a mistake there," said Union Pines head coach Jeremy Blake, "but now he knows what he should have done and hopefully he will take that lesson and put it to good use for the rest of the season. We don't need to be in a hurry. With less than two minutes left, when we are under pressure and they are throwing numbers at us, as a team, we need to learn to take our time, maintain our composure and make the smart, safe plays in those situations."
Aside from the miscue Moore turned in a stellar showing in goal, making several remarkable stops. He finished the night with 12 saves.
As the second half commenced, each squad fought hard and played superb soccer. Eventually it seemed as though the match was destined for overtime. Then with time winding down, Allen Cha delivered the game winner.
"We showed tenacity tonight by staying locked in this game." said Blake. "Even when they (Southern Lee) got that goal late in the first half, we were able to kept at it and execute when we needed to most."
Hayes felt his team's confidence never wavered on Monday.
"Tonight our mindset was on coming out hard," said Hayes. "We wanted to jump on them right away, which we did by dominating the first 35 minutes. Even when Southern Lee got the late goal, we still had our heads up at halftime.
"We knew we had been dominating the game and that a goal would come. As time went on, still we held our composure and then Allen Cha finally got that shot for us and put it in."
Hayes felt senior midfielder Ben McMichael's strong performance was a key factor in the outcome of the match.
"Definitely in the second half Ben, really took a dominate role in the midfield. He started coming back and winning balls on defense. He stopped a lot of their attacks, which helped the back four handle Southern Lee coming forward, because they do have good speed."
With the win the Vikings solidified their stronghold on the top spot in the conference and collected a season sweep over the Cavaliers. Coming into the game, Union Pines was in first place with a league record of 7-1. Southern Lee started the night alone in second place with a record of 6-1-1 and fresh off a 4-1 lashing of, then top dog in the conference, Triton.
Both Cav conference losses this season have come at the hands of the Vikes. Union Pines is now in first place with an 8-1 record in Cape Fear Valley play (13-2 overall.) Triton (6-1-1, 9-1-1 overall) slid into the second spot with a 7-1 win over South Johnston, while the Cavs dropped to third place with a league mark of 6-2-1 (10-3-1.)
Tonight at 7 p.m., Union Pines plays host to conference foe Gray's Creek at Woodrow Wilhoit Stadium. Then on Friday the Vikes travel down U.S. 1 and over to 15-501 to Southern Pines, where they will face the Pinecrest Patriots in a Friday match against their biggest rival.
F.W. Manning II can be reached by cell at (910) 639-5481 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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