Early in the year Leesville Road’s boys soccer team forgot what it took a year ago for the Pride to position itself as the defending champion of the competitive Cap-8 Conference.
But Leesville, ranked No. 6 among N&O schools, has recaptured that teamwork element in time for a 2-0 victory over No. 2 Millbrook Monday night at Leesville Road.
The win has the Pride one win from clinching the Cap-8 in the regular-season finale on senior night on Wednesday.
“Before we didn’t trust each other,” said senior Gabe Oliveira, who scored one of the two goals. “I feel like now we can pass it to whoever and say, ‘Take it, I trust you.’ That’s a team when you can trust each other.”
Leesville Road’s win avenged a 2-1 overtime loss on Sept. 28 at Millbrook. But Millbrook later suffered a 1-1 overtime tie against Enloe that has the Wildcats (17-3-1, 10-2-1) trailing Leesville Road (15-6-1, 11-2-0) with one match to play.
The teams battled to a 0-0 tie through 51 minutes until Oliveira took a pass 25 yards out on the right side from sophomore Myson Darden.
“I saw the goalie was out – he wasn’t on the line – and I had a shot,” said Oliveira.
With strong defensive efforts on both ends of the field, that appeared to be the night’s only score. But Millbrook was called for a foul when senior Luca Menozzi was bodychecked about 10 yards out on the left side of the net.
Menozzi lined up for his first penalty of the year and converted.
“I waited for the keeper to make his first movement,” Menozzi said, “and I hit it to his left where he couldn’t get it.”
Millbrook’s dejected players dutifully walked through the postgame handshake line and then wandered aimlessly with heads down, but it was only for a moment.
“Clap it up,” senior Jose Garcia called out, motioning for his teammates to face the Wildcats’ fans. “They came out for us.”
Millbrook’s fans filled the visiting stands with a turnout that resembled a Friday night football crowd.
“He’s a big character guy who appreciates everything from the coaches staying late, to players helping each other to the fans,” said Millbrook coach Matt Edwards. “He understands and appreciates the support we’ve received. He’s one of the most important parts of this team with his character and leadership.”
Halftime: Millbrook 0, Leesville Road 0
51st minute: Gabe Oliveira broke the ice with an assist from sophomore Myson Darden.
73rd minute: Luca Menozzi converted a penalty kick.
THEY SAID IT
“Leesville was outstanding and played with great energy. It’s not so much my disappointment in the way we played as it is I’m impressed with the way they played. We didn’t play our style, but Leesville forced us into adjust. They are a team that is getting better, and that’s scary.” – Millbrook coach Matt Edwards.