By Jeff Nations
STEPHENS CITY -- Shenandoah Valley Christian Academy boys soccer coach Dustin Wheelock knew his squad was facing a tough test when the Patriots hosted Mercersburg Academy (Pa.) on Tuesday afternoon.
The Blue Storm rolled into Stephens City with a perfect record on the season, and needed just three minutes to flash a lightning-quick offense to grab a lead they would never relinquish in a 6-0 victory.
Mercersburg's Pearce Bloom got the scoring started when he redirected a deflected corner kick by teammate Gustavo Farina past Patriots goalkeeper Tanner Foster just three minutes into the contest.
Five minutes after that, Mercersburg (8-0) added another goal when Zack Landau got loose for a run in the penalty area. Landau raced down the right side of the box to draw Foster, then sliced a shot past the goalkeeper and into the left corner of the net.
Blue Storm coach Quentin McDowell said his team has had a knack for striking quickly -- in a game earlier this season, Mercersburg notched two goals in the first three minutes. The lead is nice, but McDowell worries that it might take the edge off his team.
"It's a dangerous thing to score early," McDowell said. "I think it can mess with your mind a little bit, but I think they did a nice job of staying aggressive."
SVCA (13-5-1) couldn't muster much offense against the Blue Storm, managing just three shots in the first 40 minutes. The Patriots' Austin Stover created most of that pressure with a run on the goal, but Mercersburg keeper Atticus Shorr recorded one of his two first-half saves on Stover's shot.
The Blue Storm kept adding to their advantage. Farina picked up his second assist with a pass into the box that deflected to Landau, who sliced another rising shot into the net to boost his team's lead to 3-0.
Landau wasn't done yet, as gathered in the loose ball off Farina's direct kick after Foster knocked that shot down. Landau was right there to chip in the deflection and give his team a four-goal lead heading into the break.
The second half wasn't much better for the Patriots, who were outshot 10-2 over the final 40 minutes and lost Foster to an injury just a few minutes into the second half. With SVCA's normal backup keeper also recovering from an injury, Josh Smallwood saw time between the posts for just the second time this season and recorded four saves.
The Blue Storm kept up the pressure, and junior forward David Coly got into the scoring column with his first goal. McDowell said Coly, a native of Dakar, Senegal, is already getting heavy interest from Division I programs including Penn State and Connecticut. SVCA coach Dustin Wheelock could see why after watching Coly on Tuesday.
"He's very talented, very skilled," Wheelock said. "That's the best player we've seen in several years. I don't think we took the ball off his foot once."
Sakyi Hylton-Dei finished off the scoring with a goal off a penalty kick.
"We've been a team that's been consistently trying to play a good brand of soccer," McDowell said. "I think we want to possess and play well. It's a little hard out here. It's a little bit narrow, bumpy field. I think we adjusted really well to play out here against a good team."
Wheelock hopes his team will learn from the loss against the talented Blue Storm.
"They don't have a weak spot on the field," Wheelock said. "Unfortunately, we didn't come ready to play. But either way, they're by far the best team we've seen."
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or email@example.com>