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Leonel Castaneda scored the game-winning goal for Avery in the closing minutes of its
opening-round playoff match last week against West Wilkes.
Photo by Skip Sickler



Originally published: 2012-11-08 11:51:35
Last modified: 2012-11-08 11:51:35

Soccer downs Blackhawks, bucked by Elkin

Jamie Shell / (sports@averyjournal.com)

Avery men’s soccer opened state playoff action on Thursday, Nov. 1, with an opening-round matchup against West Wilkes at MacDonald Stadium. Braving the cold and blustery winds, AHS persevered with a goal in the closing minutes of action to take a 2-1 victory. 

AHS traveled to Elkin two days later to tussle with the Buckin’ Elks. Despite a strong effort, the home team was too tough, as Elkin downed Avery 4-0 to end the Vikings’ season.

Less than five minutes into the match, Avery found the back of the net, as Isauro Estrada sent a ball behind the WWHS defense. Matt Balog used his speed to get to the ball, outrace the defense and blast a shot by West goalkeeper Tyler Miller for a 1-0 lead.

Both teams had scoring chances in the remaining 35 minutes of the first half, but neither squad could penetrate the other team’s defense, giving the Vikings the one-goal cushion at halftime.

The battle between two evenly matched clubs continued at a stalemate until West scored in the 77th minute. A Blackhawks throw-in sent the ball in the Avery defensive penalty area. The ball bounced over the head of AHS keeper Alex Magner and West’s Thomas Cline was at the right place to send the ball into the net to knot the match at 1-1.

Much to the Vikings’ credit, Avery refused to hang its head and immediately went to work. Less than a minute following the West goal, Leonel Castaneda weaved his way around the West defense and keeper to place a shot into the center of the net for what proved to be the game-winning tally.
“We didn’t play our best, but we played well enough to win,” said AHS head coach Bruce Daniels. “We had a number of opportunities during the match where we were just not able to convert. Our touches were a little bit off, but I was proud of the guys. They didn’t throw their hands up and quit, but came back and were energized by the West goal to score themselves to get the win.”

The second-round matchup at Elkin on Saturday, Nov. 3, proved much more difficult for the Vikings, as a smothering Elkin defense made life difficult for the AHS forwards and goal-scoring threats.

The Vikings played hard and stayed within striking distance in the first half, as Elkin netted a single goal five minutes into the match, but failed to score for the duration of the half. Avery worked hard to score itself, but the team struggled with the speed of the Elkin defensive backs that matched the speed of the Vikings offensive attackers.

“For whatever reason, it’s always tough to play at Elkin,” Daniels added. “We kind of had a defensive breakdown in the second half. We trailed fairly quickly, but I felt we played right with Elkin and, at times, we were outplaying them. We just couldn’t get the shots on frame like we needed them. Elkin is probably the only team that I felt had as much or more speed than we do. We’re not accustomed to the speed they had on defense, and I felt that took us out of our game a bit.”

Ten minutes into the second half, an Elkin throw-in resulted in a second goal and a 2-0 lead that, in Daniels’ assessment, took some of the wind out of the Vikings’ sails.

“The second goal just deflated the guys. You could tell they were down from that point forward,” Daniels explained. “They just didn’t respond to that goal the same way they did after the goal against West Wilkes. It took our heads out of the game a few minutes and Elkin scored a third goal to pretty much put the game out of reach.”

Elkin added a fourth goal late in the match for the final margin of victory.

Daniels assessed his club’s season following the defeat.

“The biggest thing with this year’s team was inconsistency. When everybody was up for a game, we played well, and I think our team was as good as any other club around the region,” Daniels said. “The guys were a tremendously good soccer team, even better than the team’s record indicates. We didn’t always find that passion for every match that I as their coach would like them to. I’m going to miss this group of seniors and a tremendous amount of punch to our offense, which will be tough to replace next year. We just hope that players will step up and fill those roles next season.”

Avery finished its season with an overall record of 9-13-2, with a 5-7-1 conference mark. The Vikings graduate only four seniors from this season’s club, making the Vikings one of the most experienced teams in the conference for the 2013 season.