Millbrook’s boys soccer team has shown resiliency this season, and Thursday was no different. After giving up the tying goal to visiting Leesville Road in the second half, the Wildcats answered with the game’s only score in overtime to win 2-1.
The Wildcats (12-1, 5-1) are still atop the Cap-8 Conference, a half-game ahead of North Raleigh rival Sanderson. Those two play Monday.
Leesville Road (8-6-1, 4-2) drops into a three-way tie for third with Broughton and Sanderson. It’s not the first time the Cap-8 has had five teams as good as this year, but it may be the best the league has been in the last five seasons at least.
“It’s historically been like that,” Dinkenor said. “There’s a lot of parity, and it’s a lot of fun.”
Coach Matt Edwards’ heart was racing going into overtime, but his players were calm. Thanks to some senior leadership, Millbrook has been poised in the face of adversity this season.
Edwards noted that a game played like the one against Leesville was one that had not gone the Wildcats’ way in recent years.
But something was different on Thursday – the Wildcats got a lift from their goalkeeper.
Grafton Potter, who doesn’t always face a high number of shots, made highlight-reel saves to keep Leesville off the board. He parried away a near-goal at the end of regulation and in overtime pounced on a shot just inches before it crossed the line.
“(The defenders) kept working for me, so I had to keep working for them,” Potter said.
The Pride’s string of five straight wins was snapped in the loss, but Dinkenor gave credit where it was due in regards to Potter’s performance.
Leesville played well at times and created chances, but couldn’t replicate the same kind of chance that led to its only goal.
On that play, the Pride unlocked the Millbrook defense with an overlapping run by Riley Whitsit and a through ball from Alex Stewart. Whitsit took it to the end line and crossed back to Luca Menozzi for the one-timer.
Most of the other Leesville shots were from distance.
Dinkenor said he would like to see more playing the ball to feet, because of the Pride’s lack of height, as well as more overlapping from the central midfielders.
“They were big, fast and strong at the back, so to get around the back, so to get around the back and cross the ball to feet, which is our forte, was hard to do,” Dinkenor said. “We didn’t stop trying, but most of our other shots were 15-20 yards, 1-v-1 and stuff like that. That’s a credit to their defense.”
The Pride will have a big game at Heritage on Wednesday.
16th minute: Michael Pasca slots in a rebound (MBK leads 1-0).
Halftime: Millbrook 1, Leesville Road 0.
51st minute: Riley Whitsit sends in a low cross from the end line to Luca Menozzi, who scores it. Alex Stewart’s through ball to Whitsit started the play (LVL ties 1-1)
End of regulation: Leesville Road 1, Millbrook 1.
82nd minute: Millbrook’s Zack Thomas helps a rolling ball across the line after Pasca’s initial shot was stunted by an oncoming keeper (MBK leads 2-1).
99th minute: Leesville gets a great look off a corner, but Grafton Potter stops it inches from the goal line to preserve the win (MBK wins 2-1).
THEY SAID IT
“I think we surpassed our wins total from last year five games ago,” Potter said. “At this point, we have our eyes on the prize. We want to win the Cap-8. There’s nothing less than that we’re going to accept at this point. We want to make playoffs because we’ve missed that the last two years, but we know that we can do that at this point and we can set our goals a lot higher than originally expected.”