By Brad Fauber
WINCHESTER -- The Sherando boys knew entering the 2013 soccer season that it would be no easy task defending their regular season Northwestern District title, and through all of the adversity that the Warriors faced this season, they remained intently focused on that prize.
On Thursday, Sherando reached that goal, as a 2-0 win on the road at Handley secured the regular season title for the Warriors.
"We went through some adversity with a couple of injuries. I'm pleased with the way they just hung together and worked all along, because being defending champions, there's always a big target on our backs," Warriors coach Patrick Anderson said. "I'm really proud of the way they played today."
The win didn't come easy on Thursday, but then again, the Warriors didn't expect it to.
Handley (5-7-1, 3-3-1 Northwestern) battled Sherando to a scoreless tie in the two teams' first meeting of the season, and the Warriors knew that putting some early pressure on the Judges on Thursday was important.
Sherando (12-1-1, 6-0-1) came out strong in the opening 20 minutes, taking advantage of the speed of the turf field at the Handley Bowl to mount some quick attacks against Handley keeper Michael Davis and the rest of the Judges offense.
That pressure paid off for the Warriors in the just the seventh minute as sophomore Tommy Buono gathered the ball off a corner kick by teammate Cade Petty and connected on a shot attempt right in front of the goal to give Sherando a 1-0 lead.
"That gave us the motivation and the drive to go out and beat them," Buono said. "[Petty] sent it towards me, and I got the touch and they gave me the space. I just shot it when they gave me that space."
Things settled down after that, as Sherando was kept out of the net for the remainder of the half, despite firing eight first-half shots to Handley's two. The Warriors did have a goal waived off in the 11th minute after Sherando senior Tylar Clowser was hit with a foul after running over a Handley defender in the penalty box as he charged the ball on a corner kick.
Anderson said the Warriors took a different approach to Thursday's game than they did against the Judges back on April 23, and it showed as Sherando outshot Handley 17-7.
"We just kind of adjusted to their line. The first time we played them we didn't adjust very well to the way they came out, so this time we kind of just made sure that we talked about it so they knew we could adjust on the fly if we needed to," Anderson said. "Playing on this field is a little different pace also. We just talked about it and tried to make sure that we couldn't be content with just one goal or a 0-0 tie. We had to come out and play."
Sherando was presented with a golden opportunity to add an insurance goal early in the second half, as Handley's Jay Fox was charged with a foul after he tackled Petty in the penalty box, setting up a penalty kick for the Sherando senior.
Petty -- playing his first game since breaking his wrist in a match against Millbrook on April 16 -- beat Davis on the kick, sending the ball into the right side of the net as Davis dove left. The goal gave Sherando a 2-0 lead in the 47th minute.
"Getting that PK, that was such a great feeling," Petty said. "I feel like our defense could've held on, but getting that insurance goal definitely helped, especially in the second half when they were pressing hard. It really changed the momentum back to us."
Sherando will play its regular season finale today at home against Skyline, while Handley wraps up its regular season on Monday against James Wood. The Judges, who are suffering from a handful of injuries, need a win on Monday to avoid having to play in the first round play-in game of the district tournament.
"We're fighting for the third [seed] right now, and I would love to stay out of that play-in game," Judges coach Cosmo Balio said. "It's just an extra game that we don't need and we're not healthy right now."
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org