ELIZABETHTON -- University High scored four goals on its own and benefited from a pair of own goals from Elizabethton, romping to a 6-0 boys’ soccer victory on Tuesday night at Brown-Childress Stadium.
The Junior Bucs improved to 8-1 overall and 6-0 in the Region 1 A-AA standings. The win sets up a showdown next Tuesday at Greeneville, also undefeated in the region.
A pair of early goals set the tone for UH.
Kevin Mast crossed a corner kick and Noah Jones put in a header in the fourth minute.
Nine minutes later, Junior Bucs were the receipent of the Cyclones’ first gift when the ball bounced off the chest of an Elizabethton defender and into the goal.
As head coach Victor Chirica was off to the side attending to Connor Williams who suffered an ankle injury, assistant coach Tony Snapp talked about the importance of those early goals.
“We talked before the game about having high pressure on the top,” Snapp said. “We got that head ball off the corner kick to get started with and then had the deflection on the second one. That kind of set the pace.”
Elizabethton fell to 6-5-1 overall and 3-2-1 in the district with the loss. Cyclones head coach Bill McClay could only remember one other high school match with two own goals, and that was a girls’ contest years ago.
“We knew we were going into a tough match, and you can’t make mistakes against a team with that kind of skill,” McClay said. “We made some mistakes early, but we survived the first half down 2-0. We come out in the second half and our intensity stepped up. Then, we give up another own goal when the ball was just going to go harmlessly to the keeper. I was disappointed with the final score.”
With an emphasis of controlling the midfield, the Junior Bucs controlled action on both ends of the field. They had a 15-3 advantage in shot attempts, including 11-1 on shots on goal.
“We wanted to be first to the ball,” Snapp said. “I told the guys at the beginning of the game if we won the ball in the midfield, we would win the game. They played up tempo all game and made some really good passes.”
They included Mast’s assist on the first goal from the left corner. The senior put the ball exactly where the coaches told him to, leading Jones to finish it on the back post.
“It just felt right. The touch on the ball was just perfect,” Mast said. “Then Noah’s header was perfectly paced. Those early goals gave us a lot of momentum.”
Pedro Teixeira had Elizabethton’s lone shot attempt in the first half and Isaac Fife had the team’s only shot on goal early in the second half.
Dominic Avento gave University High extra breathing room in the 63rd minute. Wesley Ongtengco assisted as Avento let loose a quick strike from the right side of the penalty box.
“After the start of the second half, that was big to get us up 3-0,” Snapp said. “That takes a little breath away from the other team because a 2-0 lead is the most dangerous margin in soccer.”
There was no stopping the Junior Bucs at that point. They scored on a second own goal in the 71st minute when the ball bounced off the head of an Elizabethton defender.
Just three minutes later, Tani Houston took the ball off the foot of another Cyclone defender for an unassisted goal. Lowell Williams blasted a free kick in the 77th minute for the final goal of the match.
It wasn’t all about the offense, as the UH defense was equally successful in marking Teixeira.
“We talked about that before the game how we didn’t want to let him turn with the ball, especially from 20 (yards) in,” Snapp said. “The guys played him pretty tight and didn’t give him any free looks at the goal.”
In addition to UH’s showdown with Greeneville, Elizabethton has a key contest next Tuesday. The Cyclones play host to Grainger with likely a No. 3 seed in the upcoming region tournament on the line.