Friday, October 22, 2010

Bulls soccer avoids upset

No matter the sport, the adage "when you have a team down you need to put them away" is almost always true. More often than not, when your team is controlling play and you let off the pedal so to speak, you lose momentum, and then ultimately the game, match, or contest. Your 2010 men’s soccer team is either good enough to turn it on or off when they please or lucky enough the adage doesn't apply to them. It happened earlier in the season when the Bulls escaped win less Mount Pleasant with a 1-0 overtime victory and it happened again Thursday night against 6th place AL Brown (4-7 SPC). The Ragin’ Bulls (10-1 SPC) controlled the tempo and the game on the opening Kannapolis kickoff and were rewarded in the 9th minute when Adrian Ike put in a shot from 20 yards out from the middle of the field. The rout was seemingly on. But a funny thing happened on the way to a blowout. The Bulls failed to realize this was not the same team they defeated 4-1 earlier in the season. From about the time they went up 1-0, Hickory Ridge went on the defensive as the resilient AL Brown Wonders kept attacking and pressing their advantage. Finally they caught the Ragin’ men mesmerized and bounced an equalizer off the back left post into the goal with 13 minutes left in the half. And so ended the half with score knotted at 1-1. To the casual observer, Hickory Ridge was playing terribly after the first 10 minutes. Or perhaps that same casual observer thought the Wonders were playing great the last 30 minutes. Take your pick, but the message is clear, the Bulls had their hands full after letting the throttle off the gas.

The second half started with the Bulls in possession, but that lasted all of 10 seconds as the concerted attack off the kickoff was thwarted by the Wonders defense. Sure enough, barely 3 minutes into the half the Wonders scored a go ahead goal to lead 2-1. Not even 3 minutes later the Wonders had a wonderful chance to increase their margin but failed after their center mid beat seemingly the entire team to get a wide open shot that just missed wide right. That proved to be the final act to light a fire under the Bulls proverbial fannies. The Bulls switched the mythical on/off switch to on and reasserted themselves over the ensuing 15 minutes. The renewed commitment to attack was rewarded when Adrian Ike scored his second goal of the match in the 14th minute of the second half off a seemingly harmless ball sent into the center of the Kannapolis defense that Adrian was able to get his defender on his back, then turned, then put a shot off the keepers hands and into the right corner of the goal to knot the score at 2-2. Not even 3 minutes later, forward Adrian Ike took the ball into the right Kannapolis corner, sent a centering cross through the legs of a Kannapolis defender towards a streaking Matt Abbott. Rather than attempt a heavily contested shot, Abbott allowed the ball to continue on its path through his legs where a wide open Chris Faber put the uncontested shot into the far side of the goal. 3-2 Bulls just like that. That goal rejuvenated the team and elevated their effort as they fended off one attack after another and counter attacked themselves at key moments. In the end though, neither team was able to find the twine and the game ended with the scoreboard indicating Home team (Bulls) 3, Guests (Wonders) 2.

Sr. Eric Frederick clears a ball off the Bulls endline in the first half of the Bulls 3-2 victory over AL Brown

And so it is the Bulls enter their final week of the regular season 11-1-0 in conference play and in sole possession of 1st place. However, to win the SPC championship they have to play 2nd place Concord on Monday at Hickory Ridge and 3rd place Robinson, at Robinson, on Wednesday. Win both, and there is no doubt your 2010 Hickory Ridge Ragin’ Bulls are champions. Lose one, both, or tie both and the issue is in doubt. So rather than speculate, let’s celebrate. This season has exceeded all expectations. The last home game is Monday, October 25th against Concord. It is senior night. It may not be the last game at Hickory Ridge for the seniors, but it is the last game that is guaranteed and will go a long way in deciding the final conference standings. Hope to see you there.

Go Bulls!

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