SMITHFIELD — Smithfield-Selma soccer coach Renato Frietas repeated one mantra throughout Wednesday night’s match against West Johnston.
“Win it,” the coach kept shouting to his team, reminding the Spartans to try to win every possession battle, control the ball and maintain possession. The Spartans responded, and it was a winning strategy in the Greater Neuse River 4A Conference match.
Smithfield-Selma (9-4-1, 4-2-1 Greater Neuse River) outshot the Wildcats 17-7, getting a goal and an assist from Jose Arevalo in a 2-1 victory.
“Our game is to keep possession and try to put quality in everything that we could,” Frietas said. “I think we did a great job. [West Johnston] did a great job on defense in not giving us space. But I said tonight to my team to win everything you can. I think that is one thing that our team is starting to get in their mind.
“We switched from long balls to moving as a team and I think that has made a difference in our team. We are not a physical or a big team but we are around the ball all the time and that makes it easier to make the passing combinations that help us score.”
West Johnston scored first when Patterson Towles launched a kick from 35 yards out in the 18th minute that one-hopped past SSS keeper Daniel Uriolstegui and into the back of the net.
Smithfield-Selma tied the match in the 32nd minute when Arevalo got a loose ball on the right side, dribbled toward the goal and left-footed it in from just inside the box.
“I found the ball and was by myself,” Arevalo said. “I had the option to pass it or shoot it and I decided to shoot it.”
In the second half, Arevalo made the pass that led to the go-ahead goal for the Spartans.
Whitley Stevens made a crossing pass that went from the right side through the middle to Arevalo, who controlled it near the left corner and then passed it to Oscar Villanueva. Seeing an opening on the right side of the goal, Villanueva rifled a shot to the right corner to put Smithfield-Selma up 2-1 in the 56th minute.
“I saw the free space and I knew I had to cut it,” Villanueva said. “I didn’t even see the goal. I just shot it and it went in.”
Smithfield-Selma kept the ball in the West Johnston end of the field for much of the final 24 minutes. And Uriostegui made sure that no more Wildcats shots found the net.
“It wasn’t a matter of lack of effort on our part,” West Johnston coach Ken Sweat said. “SSS executed very well. They were using their support passes spot-on. As soon as there was pressure, if there wasn’t anything they would send it across the field. They do a good job of spreading the field.
“They find space immediately, they don’t hesitate. That is their game. They did an outstanding job of it the second half.”
Smithfield-Selma remained in third place in the conference behind Harnett Central (3-0-4) and Garner (5-2-1) as league teams begin the second half of the conference season. Frietas hopes his team continues to keep its momentum.
“I think if we minimize mistakes, I think we will be right there,” Frietas said of the conference race. “This conference is very strong and everybody has a shot. But if we keep organized and do what we are supposed to, I think we have a shot to be right there with the top teams.”