STEPHENS CITY — Skyline boys soccer coach Steve Carey said the Hawks talked in pregame about owning the first 20 minutes of Monday’s match against Sherando. It took all of 70 seconds for the Warriors to take control in what would end in a 6-1 Warrior victory.
Sherando has done a lot of the owning in recent weeks. Since a 3-2 Class 4 Northwestern District loss to Handley on the road on March 19, the Warriors (8-1-1) have reeled off seven straight victories, a streak that has come in a span of just 14 days.
They’ve averaged 4.1 goals in that span and have outscored opponents 29-7.
“(Against) Handley, we went out and we competed. We didn’t come out with the result that we wanted and since then we’ve just been working hard, working together as more of a unit,” Warriors senior forward Eli Racey said after Monday’s win, during which he scored a goal and had two assists. “(Against) Handley we were just trying to do it with our front three. Now the midfield’s pushing up, our back line’s holding the midfield, we’re doing everything we need to do.”
Sherando, which returned seven starters from a 2018 squad that went 13-5-2 and reached the Region 4C tournament semifinals, has made great progress since opening the 2019 season with a scoreless tie against Woodgrove.
The loss to Handley in their third match of the season has been the only match since the opener in which the Warriors haven’t scored at least three goals. Multiple goalscorers have started to emerge, head coach Pat Anderson said, and it’s a product of increased on-field practice time after bouts with poor weather limited teams in the preseason.
“We’re starting to work together and trust each other offensively, and looking for other people, not just one or two guys,” Anderson said. “Try to spread the wealth a little bit in the final third there. We did start off a little slow. We didn’t score any against Woodgrove and then kind of get things churning and just work on different things.”
Monday’s win over an overmatched Skyline squad showed off the depth and quick-strike ability of the Warriors’ offense.
Sherando needed just a minute of action to set in motion a scoring sequence that began when sophomore Wade Butler played a ball down the sideline to senior Nathan Laing, who pushed into the penalty area and crossed a pass to the left post. Racey was there to punch the ball into the goal for a 1-0 lead just 70 seconds in.
Laing scored off a Jack Hendren assist just over two minutes later to put Sherando in control, though the Warriors wouldn’t score again until early in the second half.
Racey assisted on a pair of goals by Nathan and Ethan Laing in the first eight minutes of the second half, and Connor Lothrop and Hendren scored goals in an eight-minute span in the latter half of the second half to put the Warriors up 6-0.
“It’s a team effort. Everyone’s working,” Racey said. “Me, Nate, Wade, we get a lot of recognition, (Ethan Laing is) scoring a lot of goals, but like David Berry, Will Freilich, Ben Rodriguez, they’re putting in the work, the grit and feeding us and letting us do our thing. So it’s definitely a group, collective effort. And then our back line is crazy. A lot of these goals you see us conceding … it’s (late-game) goals, subs are in, but our defense is deadly.”
That defense, bolstered by a veteran presence in the net in senior goalkeeper Spencer Scott, has posted four shutouts through the first 10 matches of the season. Scott didn’t allow a goal on Monday against Skyline before giving way to backup keeper Jonathan Ames, who surrendered the only goal of the night on Julian Sanchez’s penalty kick with 9:26 to play.
“Defensively we still need to be sound,” Anderson said of the areas in which Sherando needs to improve. “We didn’t cover in that (play that led to the penalty kick), we just put ourselves in a bad situation with that. That and just a little bit more pressure on the ball in certain spots on the field that we try to do.”
For Skyline (2-5), Monday’s loss was its fourth straight loss since picking up two wins over Strasburg in its first three matches of the season. Though the Hawks have been outscored 18-3 during their losing streak, they played evenly with Sherando for the rest of the first half after giving up the two quick goals and attempted six shots in the first 40 minutes.
“One of our goals this year is to cut down on goal differential and we’ve done that so far this year,” Hawks head coach Steve Carey said. “Compared to this time last year, we’re way ahead of the game and I hope that the boys can take that. (Assistant coach Axl Ulibarri) and I try to convey that to them but every once in a while it’s tough to look at the wins and losses and realize that you are doing a good and a better job than last season, and that’s what we’re gonna talk about tomorrow.”