By Brad Fauber - firstname.lastname@example.org
STEPHENS CITY -- Visiting Tuscarora used a second-half surge to defeat host Sherando, 3-0, in the quarterfinal round of the Region II boys soccer tournament on Tuesday.
Both teams battled to a scoreless first half as Sherando sat back on defense to focus on keeping the Huskies (19-2-2) off the scoreboard in the opening 40 minutes, but the Warriors (7-10) switched up their tactics in the second half.
The move opened a window for Tuscarora, and the Huskies took advantage with a quick goal to open the second half and never looked back as they coasted for the opening-round win.
"We were trying to stay 0-0 [score] until the half, and then switch things around," said Warriors coach Patrick Anderson. "We gave up that early goal [in the second half] -- it just killed us. We tried different things, and once they scored the first one we had to adjust, and that opened up even more in the back."
The Huskies ripped off 10 shots in the first 40 minutes of action, but despite controlling the ball for much of the opening half, couldn't get a clean shot to the back of the net.
Sherando goalkeeper Rodrigo Casteriana was there to stop any ball that found its way through the Warriors' back line, as he recorded three of his six saves in the first half.
But Tuscarora wasted no time responding to Sherando's more aggressive play in the second half as junior Angel Ceron Garcia gathered a long ball that bounced off a Sherando defender and connected on a 10-yard shot past a diving Casteriana for the match's first goal. The goal came barely a minute into the second half and gave the Huskies some much-needed momentum.
"We were fortunate they made a little defensive error in the back and then it gave [us] a little bit of confidence and kind of opened it up a little bit more," said Huskies coach Dave Gryder. "Being behind, they had to press a little bit more, so I think that made it better for us."
Tuscarora launched several attacks on goal over the next 10 minutes before striking again in the 63rd minute.
As Sherando junior Collin Ellias closed in on Huskies freshman Sergio Resendiz, who had control of the ball near midfield, Ellias lost his footing on the wet grass, allowing Resendiz to push the ball downfield virtually unguarded.
Resendiz took advantage of the open opportunity by knocking home a 25-yard shot to give Tuscarora a 2-0 lead.
The Huskies sealed the win on an 18-yard goal by senior Francisco Salvador off an assist by Resendiz with 9:45 remaining.
The Warriors, whose offensive attack was slowed with senior Taylor Ruths seeing limited playing time due to a groin injury, managed just one shot in the second half, and were outshot 26-3 for the entire match.
"We just went out with the idea that it's the region, it's the playoffs -- we've got nothing to lose and everything to gain," said Warriors senior Brian Ferraro. "As a team we did what we wanted to do. Unfortunately in the sport of soccer, you don't always get what you want. We came in with a game plan that we practiced, and we did it to the best of our abilities but they were quick on defense and shut it down."
For Anderson, Sherando's 2012 campaign, which included a regular season Northwestern District title, was nothing less than a success, especially considering the slew of injuries that the Warriors have had to overcome this season. Ferraro was the lone senior starter in Tuesday's match.
"I give them all the credit for staying with it and working hard," Anderson said. "It's a good group of kids. Overall, they did everything we asked this year. We planned on coming in with a lot of experience and we ended up with not a lot of experience [due to injuries]."
After the game, the team shared an emotional moment as the seniors prepared to walk off the field at Arrowhead Stadium for the final time.
"The team that we have, we get at each other and we do everything we do -- but we're closer than blood. We're family," Ferraro said as he tried to fight back tears. "On and off the field, we've always got each other.
"I'd take a bullet for any one of these guys."