It became evident early Monday evening that West Wilkes had the defense to win its Mountain Valley Athletic Conference soccer matchup with North Wilkes.
So the question was, would the Blackhawks be able to generate enough offense to climb back above .500 in the league standings?
A flurry of late goals gave the ’Hawks the cushion they needed as the defense kept the scoreboard clean, and West Wilkes took the important conference victory 3-0 over the rival Vikings in Millers Creek.
The ’Hawks defense, led by keeper Dylan Miller, faced an early onslaught of North shots as the Vikings controlled possession. But North couldn’t find the net, and slowly the Blackhawks were able to find chances of their own on transition.
“Dylan had several huge saves early,” said West Wilkes Head Coach Wesley Golds, whose team improved to 9-4 overall and 4-3 in league play. “He’s actually had some pretty good games recently for us, and he was spot-on again tonight. We challenged Dylan at halftime, too. We told him he’s had one great half, but asked if he could continue to focus for another 40 minutes against a good team. And sure enough, he did it again.”
Offensively it took longer for the Blackhawks to find their rhythm, but Rodney Perez changed the match in the 23rd. Perez collected the ball on the right near the post and sent in a low shot to the other side of the net. The ball evaded North Wilkes goalie Braydon McGlamery and the Hawks were up 1-0.
Still the lead looked tenuous, as the Vikings continued the attack. No save was better than Miller’s smothering of an Ivan Duran chance in the 26th. Duran had a point-blank opportunity, but Miller hopped on the hard-hit ball to keep the home team in front.
At the intermission, and with the score still 1-0, Golds asked his offense to change their attack.
“We reminded them to attack diagonally. We were trying to force everything through the middle in the first half, but that’s where the defense was and we couldn’t get any looks,” said Golds. “But once we sent our passes to the wings we were able to send in some diagonal through balls, and we found some success.”
The last two Blackhawks goals came late. Moses Reyes netted the second score of the night, after a nifty spin move on the right gave him some room against the Vikings’ defense in the 73rd. And one minute later Alexi Ramires ended all doubt with a chip shot from the left that sailed just up and over McGlamery’s grasp.
“This was a good win for us,” said Golds. “They are quick. Number 10 (freshman forward Samuel Panneton) is a very good player, but I think our backline handled him pretty well tonight.”
For North Wilkes Head Coach James Cline, the match came down to missed opportunities.
“West Wilkes is a physical team, and I don’t think our younger kids stepped up to that physical challenge tonight,” said Cline. “And we didn’t touch the ball tonight, we just went out and tried to kill it every time. If we touch the ball more, I think we win. We could’ve gotten many more shots on goal, and some better looks, too.”
The Vikings played without the services of leading scorer Alex Ruvalcaba, a senior striker.
“We missed his leadership,” said Cline. “We’re starting three or four freshmen and missing Alex means we’re missing a kid who steps up to the physicality we faced out there. We lost a lot of 50-50 balls tonight and with Alex in there we would’ve won a few more of them.”