After playing a close first half against South Greene during the regular season, the University High soccer team wasn’t taking any chances when the Region 1-A/AA tournament got underway.
The Junior Bucs jumped out to a big early lead and cruised past the Rebels, 8-0, in the first round Tuesday at Civitan Park.
“I think we are a better team than we were last week,” UH coach Victor Chirica said. “My guys were keeping their heads up, looking. They find each other better. They did what they had to do tonight.”
The Junior Bucs, seeded second in the region, improved to 11-1 and will play host to Grainger in the semifinals on Tuesday. Grainger posted a 2-1 overtime victory against Cosby in the first round.
During the regular-season game against South Greene, UH led just 1-0 at halftime in a contest it eventually won 7-0. This time, it was close only for the first 15 minutes. Once Kevin Mast dribbled through the Rebels’ defense and scored an unassisted goal in the 16th minute, the flood gates had broken open. The Junior Bucs wound up outshooting South Greene 30-1.
Connor Williams then scored twice in two minutes, Skyler Lane added a goal and Silas Venturella got two to make it 6-0. Ramiro Rodriguez scored before halftime to give the Junior Bucs a 7-0 lead at the break.
South Greene kept trying to run an offside trap, hoping to catch the Junior Bucs a little too anxious on offense. But one defender continued to hang back, making most of UH’s forays into opposition territory onside, leading to several of the goals.
“It hurts because they’re afraid somebody’s gonna get beat,” South Greene assistant coach Billy Dyer said. “But if one cheats back then everybody is onside. They have to learn that the hard way.”
Chirica put in a lineup consisting mostly of reserves for the entire second half.
“That was great for us,” Chirica said. “It was great for them and it’s also great for the parents. They are big supporters for us. They are at every game and finally some of the guys got a chance to play, some of them who don’t get enough playing time. And to see them score ... I was very proud of them.”
The Junior Bucs’ final goal came when Benjamin Page, usually the team’s goalkeeper, put a perfect cross to the back post. Defender Jonathan Burke volleyed the ball into the back of the net.
Looking ahead to the regional semifinals, the Junior Bucs will be facing a Grainger team they beat only 3-2 in the first regional game of the season back in March.
“We need to be prepared for them,” Chirica said. “They play a different style than us. But also let’s not forget, it will be on our field. We are very used to this field. I’m pretty sure the team will do a great job. We have improved a lot since then.”
Meanwhile, Elizabethton beat Chuckey-Doak 5-1 in another first-round game as Raphael Teixeira scored three goals. Joey Stahl and Ashton Stevens also scored for the Cyclones, who will take an 8-8-1 record into the regional semifinals against top-seeded Greeneville.