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Pirates reach Neuse River Cup semifinals; SSS falls to Cleveland

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It didn’t take long for the Corinth Holders varsity boys soccer team to secure its spot in the semifinals of the Neuse River Futbol Alliance Cup on Tuesday afternoon against South Johnston.

The Pirates came out firing against the Trojans, scoring four goals before halftime — which powered them to a 6-3 victory on Field 1 of East Clayton Community Park.

“We want to play an aggressive style,” explained first-year head coach Brad Betterton. “We want to put as much pressure on the defense as we can to get goals and score goals, and that’s what we’re trying to do is put pressure on the other teams.”

Not long after kickoff, Corinth Holders was already taking shots on goal and pushing the South Johnston defense not to give up a mistake. By the eighth minute, midfielder Michael Edge broke through in the middle, just a few yards outside the box, and connected for the first goal.

Two minutes later, teammate Christian Alvarez scored his own goal to lengthen the lead to 2-0; then he hammered home a third in the 29th minute.
Anytime the Pirates had the ball, they were moving downfield with efficiency and looking to score.

“They’re a well-organized team and they play soccer well,” South Johnston head coach David Diviak said. “They played quick and at times their pace is what gave us trouble, especially in the first half.”

Diviak said at halftime, the goal was for his team’s offense to come out with “a little more intensity” and try to recover as much as it could.

The shutout was ended five minutes into the second half, as South Johnston’s Bruce Miranda connected on a long strike in the 45th minute to trim the Corinth Holders lead.

That goal seemed to spark a comeback in the Trojans, as Misael Garcia headed in a goal about 10 minutes later to bring the team within two.
But Alvarez struck again in the 69th minute to stave off the comeback, completing the hat trick in the process. He credited capitalizing on key through balls from teammates for his offensive performance.

“If I get space, I’ll take it,” Alvarez said. “I try to do my best to get as many chances to score.”

Miranda scored the eighth combined goal with time running out, and senior midfielder Matson Daniels completed the scoring with four minutes remaining.
With the win, the Pirates tied for the most goals scored in a game in the tournament after Tuesday’s matches.

“I feel like it shows everybody we’re not easy to go up against,” Alvarez said of the six-goal effort. “I think we’ll make it far in the cup.”
Advancing to the semifinals, Corinth Holders will face Cleveland at 6:15 p.m. Wednesday night for a chance to reach the championship match.

CLEVELAND 2, SMITHFIELD-SELMA 1

Head coach Kate McGrath’s Smithfield-Selma team lost 2-1 to Cleveland High on Tuesday evening, but she learned a lot about the team she has in its first game of the 2019 season.

“I think we played one heck of a game,” McGrath said. “This is not the same team from last year.”

After graduating 16 seniors at the end of last season, McGrath is still learning the potential of her new squad with five key returners coming back. However, last year, she said she never would have seen what she saw from the Spartans — which was a competitiveness and fight to come back after falling behind early.
After both tea,s missed on a number of chances to score early in the first half, Cleveland’s Quinton Strickland broke through with his speed for a score with eight minutes to go until halftime.

“In our scrimmage against (Wilson) Hunt last week and our first few minutes tonight, you could tell everybody was just kind of a little apprehensive about things,” Cleveland head coach Michael Pritchard said. “The goal was kind of a sigh of relief. It was, ‘OK, we can do this. Let’s gain some confidence and let’s go out and play.’ It was a big confidence booster for us.”
Although the Rams started playing with confidence toward the end of the first half, the Spartans wouldn’t go long before responding.

Throughout the game, McGrath yelled reminders at her team to “play their game.”
“Our game is a beautiful passing game,” McGrath said after the game. “A quick, two-three touch, moving the ball in and out, up and down the field and that’s what I was trying to get them to play back to.”

Her words became reality seven minutes into the second half, as a run down the field led Denzel Palacios Colon to even the score at one, scoring on an assist from senior midfielder Jesus Gutierrez.

“I just measured it really good, drew back and shot,” Palacios Colon said. “It was tough to shoot because that was the only way I could score.”
The Spartans were energized by Palacios Colon’s goal and continued to match Cleveland through much of the second half. In the 62nd minute, Luke Holding broke through and powered the ball into the back of the net for the game-winning goal.

Though Smithfield-Selma fought the rest of the way, the team could not come up with another score in the final minutes. But even in a loss, McGrath was encouraged about what she saw.
“They kept fighting throughout the whole thing,” she said. “I don’t think they gave up at any point in the field or the game.”

DASH 3, NEUSE CHARTER 0

To open up the battle for the cup Monday, Neuse Charter lost to Downeast Association of Sports for Homeschoolers 3-0.
DASH senior Salvador Guzman scored the first goal in the 12th minute and was assisted by eighth-grader Hiroshi Picklesimer. In the 54th minute, the team lengthened out its lead to 2-0 on an unassisted goal by sophomore Chandler Harris.
The final goal of the contest was scored in the 70th minute. Junior Jordan Bailey, who was assisted by senior Eric Barry, hammered home a goal to complete the scoring.

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