It didn’t look good for North Surry’s soccer team when West Stokes earned a goal on its very first shot on goal.
One of the things the Greyhounds stress is responding well in the face of adversity. It paid off when North Surry picked up an important Western Piedmont Athletic Conference victory, coming from behind to beat the visiting Wildcats 2-1 Wednesday evening.
Joseph Rangel scored twice for the Hounds before the first half was completed, and that lead stood up throughout a second 40 minutes where both teams had numerous chances to score, only to be denied by quality goalkeeping and defense.
“I was very proud of how we played tonight,” said North Surry head coach Eric Jessup. “We got down 1-0 very early and came back and got two, and then shut them out in the second half. It was a great all-around effort.”
North Surry (4-5, 2-2 WPAC) badly needed a conference win after falling at defending league champ Forbush on Monday night, but knew this would be a challenge against a West Stokes team which came in unbeaten in its last five matches. This became obvious in a hurry. North’s Javier Vera and Rangel had early shots on goal, but when the Wildcats got possession, they struck hard.
In the seventh minute, West got a run down the home sideline and appeared trapped near the corner, but made a nifty crossing pass in front of the North Surry goal, where Jacob Doncescz met the ball and put it into the net for a quick 1-0 West Stokes edge.
The Wildcats would hold the lead for the next 14 and a half minutes, but instead of hanging their heads, the Hounds got back to work and began to possess the ball more and more, thereby preventing West Stokes from having any chance to add to its lead. Finally, in the 21st minute of play, North Surry’s offense and defense worked together to even the score.
At the other end of the field, Doncescz took a free kick, but the Greyhound defense stood strong and cleared the ball out of the goal area. Soon, the ball went into the midfield and was pushed ahead to the North Surry attackers. Rangel ended up one-on-one against a West Stokes defender who couldn’t keep pace, and he took the shot and scored from 15 yards out.
Two minutes later, Doncescz had a chance to put the Cats back on top when he took a free kick from about 20 yards out, but this time, North keeper Carson Draughn was on the spot and got the ball even though his vision was partially screened by players in front.
The Hounds continued to win the possession battle, and in the 31st minute Rangel struck again. This time, he came charging down the home side, working toward the middle of the field, with a West Stokes defender on either side of him. However, it was a case of déjà vu for the Wildcats — neither one of them could keep up with Rangel, a sophomore who didn’t join the team until after the preseason. After gaining a step on both, he squared up his shot and blasted one past the West keeper from about 12 yards out for a 2-1 North Surry lead.
“This was the first time that Joseph has played striker for us, and he did a great job,” said Jessup. “He had been playing in the midfield for us, and we put him at striker tonight and he made two beautiful shots.”
North Surry had another chance to score in the final 10 minutes of the first half. In the 37th minute, Junior Lopez’ shot was deflected away from the goal by a Stokes fullback, leading to a corner kick where the intended recipient wasn’t quite able meet the ball in traffic.
After intermission, the Wildcats came out with a furious attack and dominated the first 10 minutes of the second half.
“They came out relentless. They were on the ball like buzzards on a carcass, and we just had to weather the storm,” said Jessup.
West Stokes’ best chance in that flurry came in the 50th minute, when Levi Ashby worked his way through the middle of the North defense, going east and west from about the 25-yard line, then turned and fired an open shot at Draughn, who made the stop and kicked the ball out of danger.
The Wildcats had about a 75-25 edge in possession early on, but as the second half wore on, it appeared as if the Greyhounds had more left in the tank. As the half neared its midpoint, North Surry went back into the ascendant, and as long as the Hounds had the ball, West Stokes couldn’t score.
In the 59th minute, Jonathan Cardoso nearly scored off a free kick from nearly 50 yards out, which Wildcat keeper Alex Puckett had to leap into the air to save. A minute and a half later, Cardoso made a crossing pass to Rangel in front, but his shot for the left post went just wide.
The tensest moment yet for Hound rooters came in the 64th minute, after West Stokes had reversed the field. The Cats’ Caleb Peters was loose near the North Surry goal, with a man down on the field for the Hounds. But North left fullback Cole Richardson saw the danger, raced to the ball, and prevented Peters from taking an uncontested shot. When West Stokes finally did get a shot off, it was easily defended and cleared.
The Cats had one more good chance to tie it in the 75th minute, when they took a free kick near the goal, which led to a wild melee in front and then a corner kick, but the Hounds’ defense blasted it out of danger, and North had control most of the way in the final minutes.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.