Manchester Valley saved its best performance for last.
In the final county game of the regular season Tuesday for both teams, the Mavericks topped South Carroll 3-1 in their Homecoming game.
The Mavericks (2-3-1, 2-7-2) came out aggressive with several early scoring opportunities and ultimately were rewarded just five minutes into the game. Senior midfielder Maverick Mezaache timed a run into the Cavaliers’ offensive zone perfectly, charging at the South Carroll (3-3, 6-6-1) goal after receiving a pass out of the defensive zone.
“We had our guys practice all week to aggressively attack the net,” Manchester Valley head coach John Woodley said. “Our overall approach was being able to move the ball through the middle of the field to create the [scoring] opportunities.”
As he approached the box, Mezaache was pushed to the ground and earned a free kick. The senior fired the ball toward the near post and teammate Dayton Siegler gathered the ball, following a deflection, for a score that gave the Mavericks an early 1-0 lead.
Moments later, South Carroll nearly tied the game as a free kick led to an open shot in front of Manchester Valley keeper Charlie Metz. The attempt, however, sailed high and the Mavericks maintained the lead.
Just after the midway point in the first half, the Mavericks found some breathing room. A series of nice passes quickly moved the ball out of the defensive zone for Manchester Valley and put it on the attack. Junior Austin Ray gathered the loose ball in the box and put it home for a 2-0 advantage.
“It’s a great way to finish,” Matz said of his team’s performance. “We were finally able to put some goals in the net. We are going into [the state playoffs] with confidence. It feels good”
South Carroll senior captain Cameron Larson gave the Cavaliers some life with 10 minutes left in the game. The midfielder barreled his way toward the net, earning a penalty kick when he was tackled to the ground while attempting a shot on Metz. On the ensuing penalty shot, Larson faked one way and got Metz to commit before placing the shot inside the opposite post to make the score 2-1.
“I think we came out a little bit soft in the first half ... I don’t think we were all in the game,” South Carroll head coach Ed Wharton said. “Second half, we turned it around. I talked to them at halftime about putting a little more energy into the game and I think it showed in the second half.”
The momentum didn’t last long, though, for the Cavaliers.
The Mavericks immediately took the ball from the center stripe into the scoring zone. South Carroll keeper Cole Anderson turned away an initial shot, but the keeper was caught out of position on the rebound. Junior Xavier Grogg finished to restore the two-goal advantage for the Mavericks with nine minutes to go.
South Carroll created a little drama as the clock wound under three minutes left, creating several scoring chances off set plays on corner kicks. Metz was up to the task, turning away each Cavaliers’ shot to close out a 6-save night.
“We play hard every night,” Metz said. “The record doesn’t show what this team is about. We are here to win.”
After the game, Woodley said he likes the position his team is in as they head toward the playoffs. He said his team has played a tough schedule that makes them battle tested.
“If you look at our schedule, we played nothing but beasts,” he said. “We have hung pretty well. We’ve been focused on the team synergy and getting the team melded together to [face] the challenges we’ve had. Honestly, I feel people are going to look at our record and [overlook us], not realizing this is a good team.”
Manchester Valley 3, South Carroll 1
Goals: MV – Dayton Siegler, Austin Ray, Xavier Grogg
Saves: MV – Charlie Metz 6. SC – Landon Pugliese 2, Cole Anderson 1.
Halftime: 2-0 MV