By RYAN HERMAN
CATAWBA –– Lincolnton’s defense came up big once again.
The Wolves held their second straight opponent scoreless, this time league foe Bandys in their 3-0 win Monday on the road.
The win, Lincolnton’s third in a row, left it unbeaten in Southern District 7 Athletic 2A Conference play and in a three-way tie for first with Newton-Conover and West Caldwell.
The Wolves (7-1, 3-0), ranked third in the latest EurosportScoreboard.com statewide 2A poll, host the Red Devils in a pivotal match at 6:30 p.m. today.
“I’ve asked the defense to keep the ball up front, and they’re doing that. We know that we can get our chances offensively, so we’re just limiting shots,” Wolves coach Ian Leith said. “I’m pretty happy with it.”
Since falling against Gastonia Ashbrook, 2-0, on Sept. 5, the Wolves have reeled off three wins in a row against Maiden, East Lincoln, and now the Trojans (4-6, 1-2), and have held the last two scoreless.
Jeffrey Perez converted a penalty kick in the 25th minute to give Lincolnton the 1-0 edge. The match remained 1-0 until Graham Willis put one into the back of the net 3 1/2 minutes into the second half.
Juan Abonza scored the final goal, nailing the top-right corner of the net from long range with 6:07 to play.
While Lincolnton connected on just two of its 13 shot attempts, it held the Trojans to nine shots –– two in the first half.
Since the loss to the Green Wave, Leith has seen a drastic improvement in his defense the last three matches.
“That’s why you play tough non-conference opponents, too. I think our defense has learned from it, I think our midfield has learned from that game,” he said.
Next up for the Wolves is Newton-Conover, a team that won the state 2A title in 2007, was ranked earlier in the season and knocked them out of the state playoffs in the third round last year.
After Lincolnton defeated East Lincoln last week, Leith told his team the match at Bandys was its biggest of the year.
He said the same thing following Monday’s win.
“We’ve got the biggest game of the season on Wednesday,” he said. “They’re the team that beat us in the playoffs. We’ll see.”