DURHAM — The Middle Creek boys soccer team pulled out a 1-0 win at N.C. Science & Math on Tuesday, with a 40th-minute penalty taken by Chris Gottberg as the only tally.
But the result was exactly what Middle Creek (2-1) needed. With a starting back line has two sophomores, two juniors and no one taller than 5-7 (one reserve defender is 5-9) a shutout had coach Eddie Wasdell feeling better about his Mustangs.
Middle Creek had been attacked consistently in a 4-3 win against Northern Durham and a 7-2 loss to Millbrook.
It was our best defensive effort. Our communication and we were really compact and just covering for each other, Wasdell said.
Helping the back line was senior co-captain Dylan Jenkins. Jenkins, a midfielder, kept a high work rate all night playing box-to-box.
We definitely have to get our defensive mids back and forth to help them out, he said.
Helping organize the unit is senior goalkeeper Ryan Fuller, who made some key stops to preserve the clean sheet. He.
Weve definitely got to talk a lot because theyre young, Fuller said. Mostly, weve got to watch the overhead ball and the through ball that they play.
While Middle Creeks stated goal is to go to the playoffs for back-to-back seasons the Mustangs made last years postseason after a one-year hiatus and havent made two consecutive trips in program history Science & Math (0-1-2) has accomplished its goal of playing up.
The Unicorns, moving up from 1A to 2A this year, have faced two 4A foes already (the other a 2-2 tie with Wilmington Ashley).
By playing tough competition early, coach Henry Gallagher wants to prepare his team for a deep playoff run. Last years team was unbeaten in the regular season but lost in the third round by then-conference foe Raleigh Charter.
Its a building (process). These games are here for that reason. We dont want to play easy games where we can come out and run up the scores, we want to play tough games where we can identify problems and try to work on tomorrow and the day after, Gallagher said.
Working with mostly juniors, Gallagher was proud of his team only allowing one goal against the run of play.
He commended center back Byron Spells.
Today he done a fantastic job. He done exactly what we wanted, Gallagher said.
Junior striker Jarod Glover, playing with flu-like symptoms, gave the Mustangs problems early before wearing down later. Jacob Einstein created some chances from the wing.
As always at NCSSM, Gallagher has to work to make the team gel quickly. Tryouts take place the week students get settled into the public residential high school.
Its tough, because three weeks ago they were at home with their comforts. Here, they have a whole bunch of schoolwork and a new living situation, and Im proud of every one of them, Gallagher said.
Once conference foes in last years Carolina 12 1A/2A split conference, NCSSM will take on Carrboro on Sep. 4 in what could be a primer for a late-round 2A playoff game.
Those are the game the kids want. They want tough, competitive games, Gallagher said.
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