There were plenty of chances but not much in the way of tangible results Friday, as Hammond and Mt. Hebron settled for a scoreless tie under the lights.
While the game marked the first tie of the season for Mt. Hebron (4-2-1, 6-2-1), being in overtime was a familiar position for Hammond (1-4-2, 1-7-2). The Golden Bears have now played four overtime games and have earned ties in each of their last two contests.
“It’s been like this all year for us. We’ve been in tons of these tight, overtime games, so we know that it really comes down to our defense being strong,” said Hammond goalie Scott Lastova, who also serves as one of the team’s captains. “We moved to a sweeper in the back now, which helps me a lot and I think we all just know that it’s up to us to step up and keep us in it.”
Lastova, who made 11 saves, and the Hammond defense – led by seniors Alex Pecas and Nathan Borowski — certainly kept the Bears in the game on Friday despite a very strong attack by Mt. Hebron. The Vikings generated three times as many shots as Hammond, including a couple attempts that had to be cleared off the end line by Golden Bear defenders.
Mt. Hebron was particularly dangerous on set pieces, as the team generated a half dozen quality chances by finding senior Anond Pradeep in front of the net on long throws, free kicks or corner kicks.
Hammond’s defense simply wouldn’t break.
“That’s soccer … the kids kept playing hard, the ball just didn't find the back of the net,” Mt. Hebron coach Mike Linsenmeyer said. “Every game the goal is to have more chances than your opponent and I think we did a pretty decent job with that, so really I think you just have to credit Hammond for fighting so hard right in front of the goal line. They really competed.”
While Mt. Hebron had the run of play for the majority of the night, Hammond had its chances too. The best of those opportunities to get on the board came in the waning minutes of double overtime, as a point-blank shot by Nick Borsch missed the right side of the net by less than a foot. Mt. Hebron goalie Matt Murphy finished with three saves to help keep Hammond out of the net.
Still, the tie for the Golden Bears against a team with a winning record like Mt. Hebron showed just how far the team has come since last fall. Mt. Hebron defeated Hammond 6-0 last season.
“Last year at this point, we were getting blown out by six or seven goals. This year we are in every game — no one’s killing us,” Lastova said. “It’s a totally different feel.”
And for Hammond, the progress is a great sign heading down the stretch.
“All that matters is that you’re playing your best soccer at the end of the year and, after starting 0-4, we’ve got ourselves a win and two ties in our last four … and the ties are against good teams,” Hammond coach Brett Cutler said. “I feel like we are definitely moving in the right direction. Clearly, we have to score some more goals, but we’re giving ourselves a chance to be dangerous come playoffs.”
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