NEWBERRY — In Wednesday’s soccer doubleheader (JV and Varsity Boys) against Saluda, it was the goals that didn’t count that made all the difference.
The JV Saluda Tigers brought a 3-1-1 record to Mike Ware Field to face a 6-1 Bulldog squad. While the two teams matched-up well, Newberry applied more offensive pressure in the first half and was able to get more strikes at the goal.
With 19:30 remaining in the first half, it appeared the Bulldogs would take the lead when Ulises Benitez was able to maneuver past several Tiger defenders, but the ensuing shot missed wide of the goal.
Two minutes later, while trying to find a hole in the stingy Newberry defense, Saluda was able to draw a penalty 10 yards out of the box. The resulting free kick was placed in the top of the net for an apparent 1-0 Tiger lead, but, as the Saluda fans celebrated, the goal was waived off because the striker had not waited for the referee’s whistle to resume play.
The re-kick sailed high and it looked like the half would end scoreless until, with 2:00 remaining, Lesandro Bautista slipped through two Tiger defenders on the left and forced the keeper to challenge. He then crossed-over to Mathew Allen who expertly headed the ball into the net to give the ‘Dogs a 1-0 lead at the half.
The second half showcased both team’s ability to get the ball down the field and while several corner kicks were close, neither team could find the net. With 26:39 remaining, a Saluda forward slid past the Bulldog defense for a one-on-one, but Newberry keeper Will Rumfelt came out of the goal and blocked the ensuing shot.
The Tigers increased the pressure during the final minutes, but Christian “Perry” Cruz and the other Bulldog defenders were up to the challenge. The 1-0 victory improves the JV’s record to 7-1 overall and 5-0 in the conference.
In the varsity game, the sixth-ranked Tigers entered Ware Field with a 6-1 record to face the 2nd ranked 7-1 Bulldogs. In the first half, the ‘Dogs dominated the action with accurate passing and ball-control offense. The Saluda team was content to stay on the defense and take occasional fast breaks down field.
Just one minute into the contest, the Bulldogs found a hole and provided Erick Arroyo with a one-on-one with the Tiger keeper. He was able to chip the ball past the goalie, but a streaking Saluda defender was able to recover and kick the ball out at the goal line.
Newberry kept the pressure on, but Saluda was able to keep the middle congested with an all-defense strategy. With 4:50 remaining in the half, Joel Alvarez “foot-worked” around several defenders and passed to Erick Arroyo who was fouled in the box.
Arroyo placed the resulting penalty kick in the net for an apparent 1-0 lead, but the celebration was cut short when the referee up-field from the box called an infraction. The re-kick hit the top post and sailed over, resulting in a 0-0 half-time score.
In the second half, Newberry continued to dominate the play, but could not capitalize until, with 27:41 remaining, Jose Lozano slipped through the defense and found Erick Arroyo who placed the ball in the net to take a 1-0 lead.
Newberry forced the action for the next 25 minutes of play, but was unable to add an “insurance” goal. With less than two minutes remaining (stoppage play) Saluda bounded down field on a break-away, worked the ball into the box and drew a penalty.
The successful Tiger PK tied the score at 1-1 with little time remaining, forcing the game to over-time.
The two five-minute overtimes followed the same script as regulation, with Newberry forcing the action, but unable to capitalize, leading to a shoot-out. Newberry’s first shot was a bullet high and down the middle, but Saluda’s keeper was able to tip it up and over the net.
Saluda was successful on its first attempt, and was able to match Newberry’s remaining four shots to hand the Bulldogs their first conference loss of the season. The varsity boys resumed play at home on Thursday against Fairfield Central and at Abbeville on Friday.