By Brad Fauber - firstname.lastname@example.org
WINCHESTER -- Visiting Sherando used a pair of second-half goals from senior Taylor Ruths to grab a 2-1 Northwestern District victory over host Handley in boys soccer action on Thursday.
Sherando (4-5, 3-1 Northwestern) has now won three straight contests, all in the district, after dropping five of its first six matches of the season.
"We're finally healthy for once. This is only the third game now where we've had everybody," said Warriors coach Patrick Anderson. "Before it was kind of piecing things together. That's probably the biggest thing -- just getting continuity now."
Both teams battled to a scoreless first half on Thursday as neither side found much success in their offensive attacks, but the Warriors were quick to change that in the opening minutes of the second half.
After Handley's 10-yard shot attempt by Bishop Ransom was covered up by Warriors keeper Rodrigo Casteriana to open the half, Sherando's Tommy Buono found Ruths at the top of the penalty area, and Ruths knocked home the 18-yard shot to give the Warriors a 1-0 lead in the 42nd minute.
"[That goal] was definitely important -- it definitely lifted our spirits a little bit," Ruths said. "It made us play even harder, tougher on defense and just all out more intensity after that first goal."
Sherando, fueled by the momentum of Ruths' goal, allowed just one shot attempt by the Judges (3-6, 2-1) over the next 11 minutes before Ruths struck again.
This time Ruths connected from inside five yards as he received a beautiful cross pass from teammate Oscar Correa.
Correa dribbled the ball down into the right corner of the field before sending the pass parallel to the goal line to Ruths, who was set up to the left of the goal, and Ruths had a wide open shot for the easy goal to give Sherando a 2-0 lead in the 53rd minute.
"[Correa] got the ball on the outside and he knew exactly what he was supposed to do," Ruths said. "He cut straight to the post and I was just timing my run, making sure I was behind it, so that when it came across I could put a foot on it.
"It came right to me without any defenders in the way, and I just put it into the back of the net."
Handley made a desperate attempt to dig itself out of the 2-0 hole and regain some momentum as the Judges tallied four shot attempts over the next 16 minutes while limiting the Warriors' offensive opportunities.
The Judges finally broke through with their only goal of the evening when sophomore Ismal Trejo found senior Eduardo Santiago with a cross pass into the penalty area, and Santiago converted from 10 yards away to cut Sherando's lead to 2-1 with five minutes remaining.
Handley had an opportunity to tie the game with three minutes remaining as Donovan Varney attempted a shot from 15 yards out, but Varney was tripped up as he loaded for the shot. The Judges expected to be awarded a penalty kick, but a foul was called on Handley, effectively ending the threat.
Casteriana tallied six saves for the Warriors, and Michael Davis saved five for Handley. The Judges outshot the Warriors 14-9, including a 9-5 advantage in the second half, but Sherando's defensive pressure denied Handley any easy opportunities for points.
"We applied pressure and tried not to let them get a straight dribble going on because they're so good at dribbling and taking people on," Anderson said. "We tried to make sure we were there to cover for each other today. I think that helped stymie them in certain areas."