Don’t sleep on the Greyhounds.
North Surry’s soccer team lost eight key seniors from last year’s record-setting team, and there was some talk that this year’s Hounds might play more like Mutts. Anyone who thought that can think otherwise.
“I was tickled by our team’s effort,” said North Surry coach Eric Jessup, who returned to lead the Hounds’ soccer program this season after a 12-year absence. “This is a great way to start the season.”
North opened its 2017 campaign with a lot of new faces, but its first match ended with a result no one could complain about, as the Hounds were able to clear their bench midway through the second half in a 4-0 victory over former conference rival South Stokes.
The team was led by a pair of goals from sophomore Junior Lopez and a solid defense anchored by Pedro Galeana, Scott Shore, Jonathan Cardoso, and Grant Whittington, who made sure the ball was quickly sent back the other way anytime the visitors crossed midfield. North Surry held possession for about three-quarters of the match, and was able to keep the Sauras off the board even after both teams went to their bench. Carson Draughn worked the first 75 minutes of the match in goal, with Kayman Hodges finishing up the shutout win.
“It was a great performance by our defense,” said Jessup. “They were great from the start to the finish.”
The Hounds wasted little time demonstrating that they still had plenty of game. After just 90 seconds of play, Lopez had North’s first shot on goal, about 10 yards in front of South Stokes keeper Ben Bowen. He made the save on the initial shot, but the ball rebounded right back to Lopez, who juked a defender and fired again. This time, Bowen dove to his right and made an outstanding save, which led to the Sauras reversing the field. Late in the fourth minute, Alex Booe had the first South Stokes shot on goal from about 20 yards out, but Draughn grabbed it.
Action soon went down to the other end, and in the seventh minute, Javier Vera crossed a ball to Lopez in front of the net from five yards out, and this time there was no stopping it.
“Javier Vera and Vicente Hernandez didn’t score tonight, but both of them were absolutely essential to our moving the ball up and down the field,” Jessup said.
The Hounds dominated the next 20 minutes of play, and it was everything the Saura defense could do just to keep the ball away from their goal. The second goal came in the 24th minute, when Jesus Bautista ran down a long ball from the midfield and managed to get behind his defender. Bowen got a hand on the ball, but was unable to deflect it enough to prevent it from going into the goal for a 2-0 Hound lead.
Lowell Shotton had the only other serious chance for South Stokes late in the 38th minute, when he was awarded a free kick close to the North Surry goal. However, Draughn dove to his left and stopped it.
At halftime, Jessup told his charges that he was pleased with the first half, but wanted them to keep the pressure on the Sauras. They did just that. Vera had a hard shot on goal 10 seconds into the second half. The South Stokes keeper sent the ball long and Booe responded with a shot of his own before the first minute was out, but Draughn stopped it.
In the 47th minute, the Hounds extended the lead to 3-0 when Bautista led Lopez on a long pass down the middle of the field, and the latter finished it.
The final goal came four minutes later, when Vera took a North Surry corner kick and put the ball into a crowd in front of the net, where Luke Holder found enough daylight to score from five yards out.
A short time later, both sides acknowledged the outcome and began to rotate reserves into the match. The Hounds’ Louis Valle and Jarrett Hiatt came close to scoring a few times, and Zack Burrow nearly scored for South Stokes after receiving an indirect kick, but Draughn got that one too.
“I had a lot of young kids in there the last 20-25 minutes, and they played really well,” Jessup said.
The Sauras will return to action on Monday night at Starmount, while North Surry gets a strong test in its second match of the season, at home next Tuesday against 1A powerhouse Bishop McGuinness.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.