The last time Reservoir’s and Atholton’s boys shared a soccer pitch, the Raiders ended the Gators’ 2021 season in the regional semifinals.
Reservoir exacted its revenge Thursday, building a two-goal advantage in the second half and defeating Atholton, 2-1.
“Any win in this county builds momentum,” Reservoir coach Nicholas Valenti said. “They ended our season last year and it didn’t sit well for a number of reasons. They were tougher on that day, their intensity was more than ours. That was a big talking point going into this game that we match it. We did that.”
From the outset the Gators dictated the possession throughout the first half. After Reservoir nearly took the lead in the 28th minute, it continued to press forward.
In the 38th minute, junior forward Aquila De Carvalho put the Gators ahead. After a throw-in to the box from junior midfielder Graham Leary, Carvalho settled the ball down and beat Raiders’ goalie Tuscan Mulinazzi low for the opening tally.
Atholton nearly evened the score in the 42nd minute. Jacob Fato took a touch down the left sideline and curled the high shot off the crossbar, as the Gators maintained their 1-0 advantage.
Two minutes later, the Gators doubled their lead. Senior forward Noah Gantt pushed the ball upfield alongside Carvalho in a two-on-one situation. The ball trickled back to Gantt who buried the shot for his second goal in as many games.
“It’s amazing,” Gantt said of playing up front with Carvalho. He knows exactly where to be. As soon as I got the ball he’s making a run on the far side of the field. I just play it to him and I’m going for the deflection. He takes a shot and it lands on my foot. I just got to tap it in.”
Trailing by two, Atholton began winning more 50-50 balls and pushing the ball forward. Fato brought the Raiders to within one in the 66th minute. He intercepted Reservoir goalie Quinn Dean’s clearing attempt and beat him far post for Atholton’s lone goal of the game.
“We didn’t drop our heads, that’s the main thing,” Atholton coach Derek Phillips said. “They kept fighting. I can work with that, that’s what practice is for. The most important thing is they continue to play and continue to fight. Everything else can be worked on. I can’t work on their effort. That comes from themselves. The key thing is fighting, to continue to play, to win the ball, to score and that’s what they did.”
A one-goal game once again, both teams continued to push the pace. The Gators dealt with injuries down the stretch as sophomore defender Alan Gutierez was taken off the pitch. Senior Nick Usher stepped right in and helped to fight off the Raiders’ furious comeback attempt.
Continuing to push the ball out wide, Atholton had several corner kicks in the final 10 minutes. Yet, the Gators defense stood strong in front of Dean not allowing clean shot opportunities.
On Atholton’s final corner of the game, Mulinazzi came forward charging toward the far post. However, Dean saved Mulinazzi’s header, quickly clearing the ball out of harm’s way for the Gators. Shortly after the final whistle sounded, the Gators sprinted toward one another embracing their rivalry victory.
“This is easily the biggest game out of all 12 regular season games,” Carvalho said. “2-0 we’re going to be way more confident going to Howard on Monday and even Mt. Hebron on Wednesday.”