There is nothing like a good rivalry to ramp up the intensity in any contest.
Monday’s Greater Neuse River Conference boys soccer match between Knightdale and East Wake did not disappoint as the two teams left it all on the field on the way to a 2-2 tie.
According to Warriors coach Jonathan Hasbrouck, records go out the window when it comes to rivalry games because the games can go back and forth. Monday night’s affair did just that.
The Knights (7-3-3 overall and 4-0-1 in GNRC), who moved atop the GNRC standings, scored first early in the first half when senior Josh Weddle found the far post. But it was a defensive struggle for most of the first half as neither team was able to put together an attack on the goal.
The Warriors (5-5-2 and 1-1-2) put together a few strong runs, but were unable to finish. The Knights were able to get off a few good shots, but lacked their usual fluidity on the pitch. Tight coverage by both defenses didn’t allow much room for movement.
“We had a lack of ball movement and it felt like we were forcing it,” said Knightdale coach Aaron Steele. “I felt we were too predictable.”
Knightdale held the 1-0 lead at the half, but it didn’t take long for East Wake to even things up. About seven minutes after the break, Warriors sophomore Isaac Estrada lofted a ball over the Knight back line and senior Vicente Gallardo redirected it past the outstretched arms of Knightdale senior Eric Hill.
The Knights responded to the equalizer and caught the East Wake defense off guard, but a slide tackle by the Warriors’ senior Khadeem Dublin thwarted the attack. Both defenses continued their strong play to close out regulation tied 1-1.
In the first overtime period, the Knights were aggressive and drove down the field to get a shot off that was smothered by East Wake senior keeper Miguel Valdivia. The Warriors countered and the two teams continued to trade blows until the Warriors scored off a corner kick – headed by Elvin Lazo and deflected off Gallardo.
Knightdale found its form with less than three minutes left in the first overtime. Senior Charles Pumbu laid one in front of the net and sophomore Christian Williams blasted it past Valdivia to even the score at 2-2. Neither team was able to score in the second 10-minute overtime.
“We knew coming in this would be a tough game,” Steele said. “The guys know it’s a rivalry game and both teams could easily lose their heads.”
Though both teams were playing shoulder-to-shoulder throughout the match as they battled for possession, Hasbrouck said it was one of the cleanest games he has seen all season.
“It was a hard-fought game and a clean game,” Hasbrouck said. “Both teams battled to the end, all 100 minutes.”
Steele was pleased with his players’ effort – particularly that of Hill, who made his presence felt in the net by saving several would-be goals. The Knights weren’t quite themselves, with a couple of starters missing from the lineup.
“We were using different guys, but they kept that fight mentality alive the whole game,” Steele said. “That fight was tremendous. They played to the last minute, trying to create chances until the last minute.”
Knightdale will look to hold on to the top spot in conference play when it travels to Garner for a 6:30 p.m. game Tuesday. Garner defeated West Johnston, 2-0, Monday, leaving Knightdale in first place outright in the league standings.
The Knights will host West Johnston on Wednesday.
East Wake travels to Harnett Central Wednesday for a match that Hasbrouck labels as a “pretty important” game for the Warriors. He said so far, the Warriors have put forth a total team effort with several guys coming off the bench to contribute.
“The back end of the schedule is really important; we need to peak at the right time,” Hasbrouck said. “It’s never easy to go to Harnett Central when you are looking for a good result.”