Vikes Soccer Rolls Past Overhills
The Viking soccer team seems to have hit its stride, after stumbling out of the gate to start the season 0-5 due to inexperience, disjointed play and lack of on-field communication.
Recently the Vikes have shown patience and poise on the pitch, have shored up the middle and have started to produce positive results on their possessions. As a result, Union Pines has won three of its last four Cape Fear Valley (CFV) conference contests to improve its league mark to 3-2 on the year.
Vike senior forward Jay O'Connor had two goals and an assist, Thursday in Cameron, as Union Pines breezed its way to 5-0 conference victory versus the Overhills Jaguars (1-4 CFV, 3-10 overall.)
"Tonight was a really big one for us," said O'Connor. "Our confidence is beginning to build as the wins are coming with more regularity. We have finally got the right players in the right places, and as a result we are much more organized during matches.
"We seem to have started to figure it out and things are just clicking a lot better."
In Union Pines' last three games, O'Connor has scored five goals and doled out three assists.
Head coach Jeremy Blake made a lineup change in the middle of the Vikes conference opening loss to Gray's Creek; inserting junior Tayt Stafford to a center back slot and moving senior Cannon Walden up to a center midfielder position.
Since then the Vikes have played four CFV matches, allowing only 2 first-half goals while scoring 15.
Stafford has embraced his role as a key member of Union Pines' four back-line players.
"I really like it back there," said Stafford. "It involves much more talking. One of my key responsibilities is to see the whole field and help get the guys situated when we are under pressure so we can create some counter attack opportunities.
"At first I did not think I was doing that well until coach (Blake) told me different. That gave me reassurance and now I just try to maintain my focus, stay patient and do whatever it takes to help us be successful."
From the opening kickoff to the final whistle, Union Pines was in complete control of Thursday's conference tilt. Evan and Michael Lindsay both had assists on O'Connor's goals and Bryan Kokes also scored in the first stanza as the Vikings led 3-0 at intermission.
Union Pines took 20 shots, including 12 on goal, and attempted seven corner kicks. In contrast, the Jags got off two shots and did not take a corner in the game.
Junior captain Allen Cha got on the board early in the second half, when he banged the ball into the back of the goal on a rebound after an O'Connor bullet bounced off Overhills' keeper. Senior Ethan Workman would later round out the scoring for Union Pines, collecting a goal on a breakaway shot.
"Blake told the team we need someone to step up and be a leader," said Cha concerning his captainship. "So I took it upon me, since I have been here the longest to show these guys the way Union Pines' soccer does things."
On the year, he has a team high four assists and has scored three times, including a game-tying goal during the final seconds of regulation in Union Pines 2-1 overtime league victory at Western Harnett. Recently, he became the captain for the 2009 Viking soccer team.
"After two years of playing on teams dominated by senior experience," Cha said, "it took most of our guys a while to make the adjustment moving up from junior varsity soccer. Now after getting some real varsity experience, they have come to realize how important Viking pride really is and that you must take every game extremely serious."
Cha is a three year starter for the Vikes. In his first two seasons, Union Pines went a combined 2-2 in the state playoffs, 25-5 in CFV play and 30-12-5 overall (including two ties with intra-county Pinecrest.)
"To get our first win at home is really nice," Cha said, "and it is great to again have a winning record in our league.
"It seems like every preseason, people have doubted our ability to compete and we are all about proving those people wrong. There is a good amount of the season left and we have the ability to show everyone just how good we can be if we play smart, keep up the intensity and try our hardest each time we take the field."
Union Pines is now 3-6 overall for the season and will complete the first half of the CFV conference season, Monday in Fayetteville, against The Douglas Byrd Eagles at 7 p.m.
Contact F.W. Manning II at 639-5481 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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