Rematch a test for stretch run
by Carlton D. White
April 08, 2012 12:47 AM | 2672 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — Walton defeated Collins Hill 1-0 last year to claim the Class AAAAA boys soccer state championship, but revenge wasn’t on the latter’s minds Saturday at Raider Valley.

Instead, the contest, which Collins Hill won 1-0, was used as a tool to measure where the teams stood at the end of spring break, and before their region schedules resume in the coming week.

Tenth-ranked Walton (7-5-1), which is 5-0 in the Region 5AAAAA standings, will host top-ranked Lassiter, which is also undefeated in region play, on Friday.

“This was great preparation for Lassiter,” Walton coach Bruce Wade said. “With the game against Lassiter, we could end up first (in the region), or we could end up third. If we win, we take care of our own destiny. If we lose, then we have to worry about other things, like goals-against and stuff.”

One person Walton had to worry about against seventh-ranked Collins Hill (10-3) was midfielder Amiri

Abraham. Abraham nearly scored twice in the first half, including a point-blank attempt off a fast break in the ninth minute, but Walton goalkeeper Alex McCauley saved both scoring attempts and prevented the Eagles from taking a first-half lead.

Ultimately, though, Abraham found his opening in the 63rd minute.

After Abraham collected the ball off a throw-in, he beat a Walton defender and fired a shot from 30 yards out that found the low-left corner of the goal, putting Collins Hill on top 1-0.

“We create good chances,” Collins Hill coach Drew Prentice said. “Everyone has those moments where you’re going to have some things go your way. I thought Abraham had a great game. That was probably one of the best games he’s had all year, and I think he’s hitting his peak at the right time. I thought it was a good shot. He had a good look, and he struck it well, and I think the keeper couldn’t see it until the last second, so he was kind of blind, too. That’s soccer.”

Walton, which was outshot 14-9, tried to respond in the final minutes but couldn’t convert.

After a scramble in front of the net following a throw-in, the Raiders’ J.D. Nourachi sailed a shot just high of the goal in the 77th minute. His header off a corner kick in the 79th minute went wide right of the net, and Collins Hill held on for the win.

The Eagles outshot the Raiders 8-3 in the first half and dictated play for the majority of the time, their defense making it difficult for Walton to move the ball forward.

“We had some guys holding on to the ball too long and not pushing to get forward,” Wade said, “so (Collins Hill) had plenty of space to (control tempo). Then, we made some changes with one of our players going into midfield, and that helped speed up play a little bit. And we were able try and take some of the game back from them.”

McCauley finished with five first-half saves, including two close-range stops in the first 12 minutes that could have easily allowed Collins Hill to take a 2-0 lead.

Walton didn’t take its first shot until the 20th minute as its offense slowly worked itself into the game.

“We always talk about jumping on teams early,” Prentice said. “We want to set the tone and the rhythm of the game in the first 5 minutes. I thought we did a good job of that, up until the 20-minute mark, when (Walton) got into a rhythm.

“I thought we created some great chances, and I thought their keeper made some really huge saves early in the game that kept their team in it. We didn’t finish our chances, and that always gives teams some momentum.”

Sam Nash took over for McCauley in goal in the second half and finished with one save.

Walton had some scoring opportunities through the first 20 minutes of the second half but couldn’t connect until finally scrambling for the near-goal in the end.

“Our speed of play has to increase,” Wade said. “We had guys taking too many touches on the ball at times, and it was a great lesson to realize. If we want to move far into the playoffs, then we have to play quicker. Collins Hill was a great opponent to face.”


 Walton 1, Collins Hill 0: The second-ranked Lady Raiders scored 3 minutes into the second half and made the margin hold.

Mandi Goodman played a one-touch ball into the air and Chloe Headey tracked it and headed into the back of the net.

Defenders Sara Hardin, Maya Cherry, Erica Langhorne and Lucy Sanders were effective in keeping Collins Hill at bay. The Lady Eagles had at least two good chances of providing the equalizer, but the defense held them off.

Goalkeeper Michel Fernandez played the first half for Walton (10-1), while Sarah Shaver took over in the second half. They combined for 15 saves, with Fernandez stopping seven and Shaver eight.

Walton will face one of its biggest tests of the year Monday, traveling to undefeated Pope, the No. 3 team of Class AAAA. The 12-0 Lady Greyhounds have only allowed two goals all season.

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