WL holds off Knights, improves to 4-0-1
PUMPKIN CENTER –– West Lincoln knew how hard it would have to work to top North Lincoln and stay unbeaten, and the Rebels made it happen.
Keeper Walker Boyles had three saves, two big ones in the second half, and West Lincoln’s defense did enough to hold the Knights scoreless in the final 65 minutes as it held on for a 2-1 win on Wednesday.
“I knew they were better than what their record shows. They’ve played two teams out of our conference, and we’ve got a tough conference,” Rebels coach Tom Riley said. “To come in here, 2-1, that was a well-deserved, hard-fought (win) against a really good team.”
Had it not been for some nifty footwork by Timoteo Mejia and Antonio Ramirez using his head, literally, this one could have ended in a tie.
With the score knotted at 1-1, Mejia lifted a pass from the far sideline into the box for Ramirez, who headed the ball into the net for a 2-1 lead with just over four minutes to play in the first half.
The rest of the non-conference match was a defensive tussle, with keepers Boyles and Shawn Marks going tit-for-tat in the second half.
Boyles made two outstanding saves on sure-goal shots by North Lincoln (0-4), and Marks did the same to keep the match close.
But the difference in the second half was that after those two Knights shots came no more in the final 30 minutes.
“The defense stepped up and held the line a little better (in the second half). I think the first half we got a little skimmish, and gave away too much. We did a lot better holding our ground and stopped a lot of good runs,” Riley said.
West Lincoln’s Kaylor Garcia opened the scoring less than five minutes in on a lob shot just out of Marks’ reach. Ten minutes later North Lincoln tied it when Tyler Tilley’s pass inside to Kevin Garcia was converted from roughly 5 yards away.
The 1-1 score stood until Ramirez’s header with 3:47 to play until the break, and after holding the Knights scoreless for the last 65:55 of the match the Rebels are now 4-0-1, with their only blemish on an otherwise perfect record being a 1-1 draw with East Burke.
“Right now, I can’t complain,” Riley said. “We’re playing good. This is good going into the conference.”
The opposite can be said of the Knights.
North Lincoln has dropped its first four matches by a combined score of 19-5, with Wednesday’s one-goal match being the closest it has come to winning this season.
Coach Tim Corvin believes his team has the talent to succeed, but it hasn’t been able to put it together thus far.
“(We need to) play together. They need to believe in themselves,” Corvin said. “I have talent, but (the players) don’t know what to do with it. They need to find the heart, that’s all it’s about.”
Corvin said he allowed his players to drop comments into a suggestion box during Tuesday’s practice, in hopes of finding a solution to the problem.
He said they identified the problem, but a solution hasn’t quite been reached.
“All of it was about focus, but nobody had any solutions for it,” Corvin said. “I have to find the solution for it. I have to figure out what they need and what to do.”
As for West Lincoln, its biggest challenge coming up is having all of next week off match-wise.
The Rebels won’t play again until opening Southern District 7 Athletic 2A Conference play at home against Bandys on Sept. 8.
Riley sees the layoff as being good and bad. His team has time to rest and focus on a single opponent, but it has time to lose focus as well.
“It could be a good thing, it could be a bad thing,” he said. “We’ve got a week off, but I think it allows us to really focus on conference.”