Patriots Boys Stop Raiders in Soccer
Senior forward Dane Nelsen employed a variety of shots for his four goals as his Pinecrest Patriots traveled down to Rockingham Monday for their ninth Southeastern Conference victory, an 8-1 triumph over the Richmond Senior Raiders.
Coach Todd Abbey’s team, now in the home stretch of the season, is 14-2-2 overall, including a 9-0-0 conference total. And as Abbey prepares his team for conference and state playoffs, he clearly noticed the contributions Nelsen made.
“This is Dane’s time of year,” Abbey said. “For the past two years we have watched him start slow and finish strong. I hope that tonight was his arrival.
“It is a long season, and some of these players do better at times. For Dane, it always seems to be at the end of the season and playoffs.”
Nelsen scored two goals in each half to lead the Patriot attack. His quick breakaway in the eighth minute put the Patriots up 1-0. A booming goal kick by Patriot keeper Mitchell Dotson was collected by Hayden Little, who settled it for a high-percentage shot in close. Nelsen gave the Pats a 3-0 lead at halftime with a chip shot over the head of the Raiders’ goalkeeper.
After missing two games for a red-card infraction, Nelsen picked up where he left off two weeks ago when he scored a hat trick during the home game against Richmond.
“I was in the right place at the right time, I guess,” he said. “My total motivation was to come back after missing a couple of games and score some goals.”
He had a willing group of colleagues in the second half, as seven different teammates either had an assist or a goal.
Sophomore Rene Cruz sneaked the ball into the left corner of the net after several Patriot players got a boot on the ball. Junior Jake Harbeck picked up the assist.
Following a Raiders’ yellow card, Luke Lynch’s well-placed free kick found Nelsen hanging around in front the goal, and with one flawless tap from his head, he had a quick third goal, giving the Patriots a 5-0 lead. In the 54th minute, Richard Palmer‘s shot attempt was deflected by the Richmond defenders, but Nelsen gathered it on the rebound for his fourth tally.
The final two Patriot scores were compliments of Shane Bridgman (assist Jimmy Casey) and another free kick, a high arching shot by Justin Mace that sailed just outside the goalkeeper’s outstretched hands for the eighth mark.
Mace is returning to his playing form after missing the bulk of his senior season to injury.
“I had a concussion and a cracked hip flexor early in the year, but as soon as I was cleared to play, I knew I had to work extra hard to be the best I could be on the field,” he said after the game. “I’ve also had to do physical therapy for the hip injury, and that has really helped. I feel like I’m on the way back.”
Senior Patriot goalies Mitchell Dotson and J.T. Stilwell minded the net for the visitors. The single score for Richmond came following a throw-in that skidded through the Patriot lines of defense midway through the second half.
As a veteran soccer coach, Bennie Howard knows his team has to bring its best game when playing the Patriots.
“I’ve coached here (Richmond) for 24 years, and you cannot make mistakes around Pinecrest,” Howard said. “Two of their goals in the second half happened because our guys couldn’t follow their mark.
“Todd does a great job with his teams and their academy, and he always has a ‘seasoned’ lineup. We have to take good athletes and turn them into soccer players. We also have a couple of football players who play with us.”
With next week’s conference tournament placement still up in the air, Howard concedes the Raiders are not a playoff-caliber team, but will be glad to go into postseason play if it works out that way.
“We’ll go and represent the conference and do our best,” he said. “I’m proud of our boys and we’ll go and play anywhere we’re assigned.”
Coach Evan Saleeby’s junior varsity squad still are in possession of an unblemished record (12-0-0) after beating the Raiders 7-1. Jovanny Gonzalez scored two goals. The others were scored by Clay Richter, Mark Kropp, Josh Rhea, Hunter Hawes and Spencer Eltschlager.
Both jayvee and varsity had a scheduled game with Terry Sanford on Tuesday.
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