The circumstances under which North Surry hosted Surry Central in an Western Piedmont 2-A Conference match Tuesday evening weren’t to the liking of either team.
The two rivals came in with exactly the opposite problem — the Golden Eagles were concerned about playing too much, and the Greyhounds felt they were hampered by playing too little. It wasn’t that anyone was making excuses in a match that ended in a 3-0 victory for the conference leaders from Central, but it was clear that both sides could have done without the nearly constant bad weather that disrupted both team’s schedules for two weeks.
The first 20 minutes of the match decided the issue. The Eagles picked up goals from Adrian Gonzalez and Justo Cristóbal in a span of just over two minutes. The latter, which came when Cristóbal put a rebound shot past North Surry keeper Iván Barrientos from six yards out with 24:29 left in the first half, seemed to put the visitors in control of the match.
The respective coaches agreed that the dominant performance in the early going by Surry Central made the difference in the match. The Eagles’ objective was to hit their hosts with both barrels out of the gate, and it was one that was unwittingly aided by the Hounds.
“We wanted to come out and put this away early,” said Central coach Blake Roth. “We’ve got another conference game with Forbush tomorrow, and I wanted to get in front and get the kids as much rest as possible.”
Meanwhile, Hounds coach Rachel Escobar felt like her team was caught in the crosshairs of the onslaught, and there wasn’t much they could do about it. North Surry (3-9, 0-1) hadn’t played a match in a week and a half, while the Eagles (11-2-2, 2-0) had managed to sneak one in last week.
Central’s problem is that the bad weather is causing the team to have to play at Forbush this evening, and the 12-1-2 Falcons are likely Central’s biggest obstacle to winning the conference title.
“Those first 20 minutes showed that it had been 10 days since we’d played a game,” said Escobar. “Most of the teams in the conference got a game in last Wednesday, but our field was too wet to play on.”
Things got better for the Greyhounds as the match moved along, but they failed to get a goal on the board despite several good opportunities to do so. Some of them were situations where North Surry players failed to finish, but a few of them appeared to be little more than bad luck.
“Luck’s something that hasn’t been with us this season,” Escobar said. “But we didn’t maximize our chances like I thought we would.”
After the Eagles took a 2-0 lead, Roth began thinking ahead to Forbush, and extended his rotation to try to maintain his players’ fresh legs. The hosts took advantage, and with just under 17 minutes left in the first half, the Hounds mounted their first real threat when David Martínez broke free 15 yards to the front right of the box and just pushed the ball over the net.
Central continued to get occasional shots at the goal, but determined efforts by Barrientos and defenders Eduardo Luna and Eli Combs helped keep the deficit at just two goals. However, the Eagles kept the pressure on, and with 11:22 remaining in the second half, they all but clinched the win when Javier Villacaña put a ball in from point-blank range after Barrientos saved a shot but was unable to do more than knock it back in front of the goal.
North Surry kept competing to the end of the match, and had a golden opportunity to score with a little over two minutes left, when they had two shots from inside five yards. Central keeper Ryan Gordon saved one shot and the other went awry.
“I’m proud of the guys for playing to the end,” Escobar said. “They never gave up.”
The Eagles’ mentor had reason to be pleased, as well. His bench played well and even extended Central’s lead in the second half, and he was optimistic that he’d have a fresh team ready to get after Forbush tonight.
“We were switching so many kids in and out that it affected our fluidity,” said Roth. “I was very pleased with the way the bench played. My only complaint is that sometimes we held on to the ball a bit too long.”