The long and short of Fuquay-Varina’s boys soccer team upsetting Holly Springs 1-0 was the play of 6-foot-3 goalkeeper Austin Mullins and 5-2 midfielder Brandon Sylvester Wednesday night on the Golden Hawks’ stadium.
Mullins’ reach allowed him to survive a barrage of Holly Springs shots in the first half, including multiple corner kicks. Twice, he simply jumped and snatched the ball above a crowd with the style of a lanky wide receiver over shorter defensive backs in football.
“I knew I had to be focused for this game,” said Mullins, a junior. “Obviously, they are our rivals and we had to come out to play. I made sure I did my job and my defense did a great job around me.”
Sylvester was the shortest player on the field, but he was also the slickest when he raced up field with nimble footwork on the ball to score the match’s only goal with 26:41 left in the second half. The sophomore found himself in a breakaway situation 25 yards out from the net after receiving a pass from sophomore Steven Sizemore.
Holly Springs goalie Cason Brinson came out to attempt to prevent being trapped in front of the net for a short-range shot, but Sylvester was able to fake right and go left to score from 18 yards out.
“I was able to place it in the bottom left,” Sylvester said. “It’s an amazing feeling to score the game-winning goal against your rival.”
The win was the Bengals’ second straight and fourth in the last six to improve to 8-6-1 overall and 4-4 in Southwest Wake Athletic Conference.
Holly Springs (8-2-1, 4-2) suffered its second loss in the last three matches to fall into a tie for first place with two losses with Apex (9-3-1, 5-2-0) and Green Hope (7-4-1, 3-2-1).
With a 1-0 lead at halftime, Fuquay’s defenders packed the area in front of Mullins and stopped shots on goal. That task was made tougher in the final 6:13 when the Bengals played a man down following a red card.
“Our heads got out of it and we got a deserved send-off,” said Fuquay coach Nick Acosta, who had two other players pick up yellow cards. “Against a good team it makes it especially difficult (to play a man down). We had to absorb more pressure and keep everything in front of us; the guys responded really well.”
Holly Springs coach Brian Miller was frustrated by his team taking so many 30-yard shots as time ran down.
“They had a good goalie so nothing from a distance was going to go in,” Miller said. “They packed it in with defenders and did a good job of it. At the end of the day against a good goalie, you’ve got to score early or they’re going to pack it in. We didn’t get that early goal and that’s what happened.”