RALEIGH — A sizzling offensive start gave Holly Springs a big lead over Athens Drive, but it was its solid defense that helped the Golden Hawks hold on to win. Holly Springs, eighth in The News & Observer rankings, held on for a 8-5 win against fifth-ranked Athens Drive.
Putting up numbers: Seven players scored for Holly Springs: One each for Scott Johnson, Evan Allen, Will Floyd, Phillip Arnold, Ethan Brantley, Mason Boch and two for Bailey Koch. Athens Drive got two goals from Jake Hargrove and one each from Matt Balog, John Padden and Scott Baird.
What worked: Holly Springs came out firing early, scoring three goals in a four-minute stint to end the first period. By halftime it had a 6-1 lead and seemed to be in control of the game. Needless to say, Holly Springs coach Doug Greenberg was pleased with his team’s first-half performance.
“It always feels good when you can get some goals early on,” Greenberg said.
As the second half started, it was Athens Drive who went on the attack, scoring three goals to cut Holly Springs’ lead to 6-4. The teams traded goals, keeping Athens Drive (3-4, 3-3) in the game through the middle of the fourth period. Athens Drive coach Jacob Manning said the key to his team getting back into the game was speeding up its pace.
“We tried to push transition because we had a lot more guys than that,” he said. “We got a few goals off of that in the second half, but you can’t just rely on transition goals.”
With his team in desperate need of some energy, Koch scored his second goal with 5:51 remaining in the fourth period to Holly Springs a three-point advantage and sealing the win.
Holly Springs’ Taylor Ferguson said the key for his team was sticking to their strategy.
“We played our style. We didn’t force anything,” Ferguson said.
Needs improvement: Manning said his team needs to work on consistently playing their best. He said it has been an issue for his team to this point, not just against Holly Springs (4-2, 3-2).
“That’s what we’ve been battling all year," he said. “We have the talent. But 100 percent of it originates with our hustle and our attitude.”
Where they stand: Conference 2 is even more muddled after this game. Four teams – Holly Springs and Athens Drive included – are within a half-game from one another behind Apex and Cardinal Gibbons.