STATESVILLE — Though the West Lincoln Rebels weren’t victorious in the opening soccer game of the playoffs against the South Iredell Vikings on Tuesday, they put up a defensive fight until the end of the night when they fell to the home team, 2-0.
The game marked West Lincoln’s first time making it to the playoffs, a feat that seemed an unachievable goal just a few years ago.
Brother-and-sister coaching team, Tom and Leslie Riley, started leading the Rebels in 2008, five years after the soccer program was started at West.
Prior to the Riley’s takeover four years ago, theteams were unable to win a game.
“We’ve made some strides over the years,” head coach Tom Riley told the Times-News after the game. “For this being our first time in the playoffs, I think it went fairly well. The defense was a strength, and the fact that we kept them at two is something to be proud of.”
The Vikings started with a goal within the first few minutes of play by junior forward Omar Solis, but were held off by senior midfielder Chris Callahan, freshman defender Omar Calvillo and senior defender
David Perez, who were among the hard-hitting defenders who matched the Vikings step-for-step this week. Calvillo seemed to use his head almost as much as his feet, knocking the ball away from the goal more than once using his upper body.
Calvillo and sophomore midfielder for the Vikings, Luke Rodin, literally went head-to-head, smacking the ball back to back, hoping to get their teams in better scoring position.
The first half proved to be played more carefully than the second, with few fouls and a lot of South Iredell offensive plays that kept coming up short against the Rebels’ goal keeper senior Cris Rios — a player Riley commended after the game for his efforts.
Calvillo continued to highlight the rest of the game, with two big saves near the goal entrance, one header and the other a result of quick feet and the ability to find an open man even with the Vikings’ defense putting on the pressure.
Solis made another attempt for a goal, but shot the ball just outside of the right goal post. From there, the Vikings continued to take shots at Rios, exposing the strength of their offense and a slightly weaker defense.
The opposite seemed to be true of the Rebels. The defense was able to fend off the continuous stream of black and white striking Rios and the posts, while the offense was having a hard time moving the ball passed the midfield mark.
It seemed the night would end with just one point separating West Lincoln from moving forward to the next round, until the last 10 minutes of play, when Solis fired off his second and the team’s final goal of the evening.
Calvillo sealed the night by booting away an almost-goal in the final minute of the last half.
“It was a great experience playing such a good team, and they (West) never gave up,” Riley said. “They just couldn’t find the back of the net this time.”