For 11-plus minutes, Northwood’s boys soccer team played Big 8 Conference leader Chapel Hill aggressively. The Chargers looked like much more than a typical fourth-place team.
But Chapel Hill broke the ice with some quick eye contact between two savvy seniors. Sam Linker hit Oliver Reuland with a free kick and Reuland converted the goal to take control of what turned out to be a 3-0 victory Wednesday night at Northwood.
“We like to play quick on free quicks,” Reuland said. “He looked up and saw no one was marking me. He knew I was going to go towards near post and played it there.”
It was the first of two assists for the Linker. The second was on a corner that gave the Tigers (12-1, 5-0) a 2-0 halftime lead on Northwood (4-6-2, 3-4-1).
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If Northwood hoped to catch Chapel Hill sleeping, the Tigers’ defense prevented that from happening. They formed a strong wall that helped goalies Austin Shuping and Aidan McCormick post a shutout. Shuping played the first half and McCormick the second half.
Northwood nearly scored on two opportunities within 30 seconds with 15 minutes to play in the first half, but the Chapel Hill defensive line of senior Collin Jordan, senior Brendan Holly, senior Parker Hill and junior Richard Vaca made it tough to get off a clean shot.
Chargers senior Eric Paralta got free with the ball from the right side of the goal, but Jordan retreated from the middle in time to block the shot. The ball ricocheted left to right, but a wall was in place by then. Northwood junior Thomas Russell’s shot slid wide of the right post.
“Overall I was pleased,” Northwood Coach Bret Pedigo said. “I felt we matched them really well. We had opportunities in the half and a couple in the second half. But their set pieces were better.”
28:24, first half: Senior Oliver Rueland scored from in front of the net on an assist from Sam Linker.
00:07: Sam Linker, from the right corner, sent the ball across the goal to the far post, where junior Richard Vaca was credited for converting a header. The goal had some inadvertent help from a Northwood player.
Halftime: Chapel Hill 2, Northwood 0.
34:38: Ryan Shafiei charged diagonally from the left side toward the left post when in stride he fielded a right-to-left pass across the box from Collin Jordan. Shafiei easily slammed home the goal. The game was stopped briefly to fix the net that came loose from the crossbar.
THEY SAID IT
“A good defensive line really cuts down on the goals. You’ve got to be able to communicate with them well. You’ve got to be friends so you can work together. We work a lot on shifting the ball and communication. We work on pressing the ball and knowing when to step away and when not to.” – Chapel Hill goalie Aidan McCormick.