The surprising story of North Surry’s soccer team in 2016 opened a new chapter against its bitter rival, Mount Airy.
The Greyhounds won three games all of last year, but North Surry eclipsed that total Monday with a 2-1 win over the Granite Bears. North Surry (4-0) scored the match’s first two goals and survived a flurry of Mount Airy (4-2) attacks at the end to stay undefeated.
“I think the biggest thing is these guys are a year older,” North Surry coach Phil Jordan said. “They really want to win, and we’re just trying to come together and put all the pieces together. I think we took a step forward tonight.”
Mount Airy opened the match with purpose on offense and nearly scored on a couple of occasions, but the Greyhounds found the breakthrough with 28 minutes remaining in the half.
A bad goal kick and some careless defending gave North Surry’s Alfredo Vazquez the ball in a dangerous position. Vazquez guided a simple pass through the middle of the Mount Airy defense and onto the run of Jonathan Cabrera, who calmly slotted a right-footed shot past Jesus Orozco for a 1-0 lead.
“Confidence. I think that opening goal just gave the guys some extra belief,” Jordan said. “We were sitting back a little bit at the beginning, but I think we got into the game a little better and played quicker after that goal.”
Neither team scored in the remainder of the first half, but that wasn’t for a lack of chances. Mount Airy’s Orozco and North Surry’s Ivan Barrientos combined to tally 11 saves in the first 40 minutes, and Barrientos was a difference-maker for the Hounds throughout the evening.
North Surry was able to double its advantage just five minutes into the second half on a second goal from Cabrera. The Mount Airy defense once again fell asleep at the back and the Hounds engineered a quick counterattack. Alexis Cortez whipped in a low cross to Cabrera, who was wide open on the far post, and tapped his shot into the back of the net.
“We just didn’t pay any attention and we didn’t rotate on defense,” said Mount Airy coach Will Hurley. “Our sweeper was asleep, and they took advantage.”
Mount Airy struggled throughout the second half to create chances outside of long shots and long throw-ins until Robert Brown gave the Bears some needed life with eight minutes to play.
The Bears’ pressure forced a poor clearance by a North Surry defender that resulted in Brown gaining possession about 25 yards away from goal. Brown took one touch towards the defense and fired a missile-shot past Barrientos, who could only stand and watch Brown trim the Hounds’ lead to 2-1.
The breakthrough for Mount Airy dramatically opened the game and gave the Bears some confidence that they could go on and tie or win the match. Mount Airy nearly equalized twice in the ensuing minutes, once on another shot from Brown and once on a chip-shot from Julio Contreras, but Barrientos corralled Brown’s strike and Contreras’ effort hit the crossbar and harmlessly rolled away.
One standout player for North Surry was senior captain Victor Casa, who played just in front of the Greyhounds’ back line and was a physical presence throughout the evening. He combined crunching tackles with good offense on occasion to lead North Surry past the Bears.
“We might not even have been close in this game if it weren’t for Victor. He just does so much for us on the field,” Coach Jordan said.
Mount Airy gets a shot to jump back into the win column today with another home match, this time against East Wilkes. North Surry will get its next challenge to continue this undefeated season on Wednesday against North Wilkes.
Reach Jackson at 415-4702 and on twitter @jacksonfuller16