U.P Tops Western Harnett in Soccer
Union Pines defeated Western Harnett 3-1 in a Cape Fear Valley Conference soccer match Monday at Wilhoit Stadium.
The victory was the first home win of the season for the Vikings, as they improved their conference record to 2-1 and are now 2-4-2 overall.
Senior Allen Cha scored twice in the opening 21 minutes of the match to give Union Pines the early two-goal edge.
His first goal came on a breaker when he dribbled past two Western Harnett defenders before beating the keeper from around 15 yards out with 29:50 left in the opening frame.
Later, Evan Lindsey sent in an accurate ball on a cross from the right side, which Cha collected and slammed into the back of the net, giving the Vikes a 2-0 lead.
"As a team we have started to become much more comfortable with each other now," said Cha. "That has to do with working hard in practice. We are starting to understand how to play as a team and our individual roles, and the defense has really stepped it up here of late as I now feel I am always going to be covered."
Union Pines split its first two league games, defeating Overhills 3-2 on the road before dropping a 6-2 decision at Gray's Creek. Despite not scoring in either of those two matches, Cha has a team-high six goals on the season.
"It is a good feeling to know your teammates are behind you" said Cha. "Even when I draw double teams all night, like I did against Overhills and Gray's Creek, I can depend on my team to score some goals. That makes me much more willing to step into the role of a facilitator and distribute the ball on the attack."
Western Harnett (0-5-1, 0-2) brought the contest within a goal on a penalty kick early in the second half after the Vikings were called for a handball infraction in the box.
From there, Union Pines only allowed the Eagles two shots on goal. Western's final legitimate scoring attempt came from deep within the box. The shot slipped past keeper Austin Bears and skirted dangerously close to the scoring line, but Michael Lindsay was there to come through with a goal-saving clear and keep Union Pines' lead intact.
It was the first of two key clears the Vike junior captain made in a four-minute span during the midway portion of the second half.
Cha had a chance to make it a 3-1 game on a PK in the 71st minute, but Western's keeper made a nice diving save.
With less than a minute remaining in the match, junior captain Evan Lindsay scored on a penalty kick, bringing the final tally to 3-1 in favor of the Vikes.
First-year coach Jeremiah Johnson felt the win was critical coming off the heels of the 6-2 loss at Gray's Creek.
"This victory was important for our morale," Johnson said, "especially coming off a loss last week to Gray's Creek that could have devastated us. Tonight we powered back and Allen (Cha) came through again in a big way.
"Our back line is also showing strong signs of improvement. We were missing Brad Stout, one of my backline defensive starters, but Sheldon Birdwell and Mark Lockhart both stepped up to answer the challenge out there."
Union Pines is back in CFVC action tonight when they host league foe Westover (0-1) at 7 p.m.
While Johnson knows that Union Pines enters today's game as a clear favorite on paper, he said that his team makes it a habit to not take any opponent lightly.
"All games are important," Johnson said, "especially conference games. It does not matter who you are playing against in soccer, you can never count a team out. Westover is capable of coming here and taking it to us if we are overconfident.
"We need to play against Westover like it is a must-win match. That is the way we look at it. We must bring that type of intensity and level of focus every time we take the field if we want to have success in this league."
Contact F.W. Manning II at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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