By Jeff Nations
STEPHENS CITY -- A day after shuffling his formation in the hopes of generating a bit more offense, Shenandoah Valley Christian Academy boys soccer coach Dustin Wheelock got to see if the changes had any positive effect for the Patriots.
One minute into Tuesday's home game against Massanutten Military Academy, and Wheelock had his answer as junior midfielder Austin Stover broke through for a goal.
One minute after that, sophomore Peter Harrison converted another goal off Tristan Baker's cross.
By the end of the 11-3 victory, Wheelock had his answer.
"We came out with a different formation, just trying to produce more opportunities," Wheelock said. "So yesterday we came in and really put that in, tried to make some adjustments so that we can continue moving forward and not just be stuck."
SVCA (11-5-1) rarely ran into roadblocks against the shorthanded Colonels, who were missing team captains Stefan Vasic and Ivan Rudd due to academic commitments.
The Patriots continued to pour on the offense in the first half, as junior forward Nathanael Illsley scored nine minutes in on Stover's cross to put his team up by three goals.
Seven minutes later, sophomore Tanner Foster got into the scoring act with a perfect header under the crossbar off Harrison's corner kick.
Stover got his second goal of the day in the 24th minute with a dazzling run through MMA's back line for a one-on-one chance against Colonels goalkeeper Jacob Bergert. Stover finished by flicking a right-footed kick into the left corner to put the Patriots up 5-0.
Stover finished the day with a hat trick, his third of the season, and also added three assists for the Patriots.
"We just came out really intense," Stover said. "We got the balls out of the air, which really helped out our game. I think just getting the balls out of the air and us talking, it just turned us into a totally different team."
Stover's assist on Baker's first goal in the 27th minute put the Patriots up 6-0, but MMA (3-5) responded by making the most of a rare scoring opportunity as Lance Phillips followed Ivan Bauer's run in the penalty box and knocked in the deflection off Patriots goalie Madison Brewer to break up the shutout in the 33rd minute.
The Patriots tacked on one more goal in the 38th minute as Baker scored again off a Stover cross.
As lopsided as the first half was, it could have been worse for the Colonels. SVCA bombarded MMA's goal with 24 first-half shots, but Bergert tallied 11 saves to limit the damage.
Stover got his hat trick in the 54th minute on Illsley's assist, Bennett Heidelberger notched an unassisted goal three minutes later, William Steele scored off Illsley's corner kick, and Abel Green tallied an unassisted goal to boost the Patriots' lead to 11-1 with 11 minutes to play.
SVCA outshot the Colonels, 38-8. Wheelock was happy with what he saw from his young squad, which has no seniors this year.
"Are we making the right runs? Are we seeing the runs when we're making them? Is our timing right? Are we moving the ball from side to side?," Wheelock said. "And no matter who the competition is, if we're doing the right things then we can do those against tougher competition."
Bauer made the score a bit more respectable with a pair of unassisted goals in the final five minutes, flashing smooth ball-handling skills has he sliced through SVCA's defense to create his own chances.
"We still have a lot of good pieces, it's just tough to get all the kids there at once sometimes," MMA coach Ryan Dowler said.
Despite the loss, Bauer said the Colonels are getting better.
"In the beginning of the season, half the team had never played soccer before in their lives," Bauer said. "Yeah, we're 3-5 but I think gradually we're going to be a better team. People are improving."
Contact Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137, or firstname.lastname@example.org