Cavs defeat Gray’s Creek
Southern Lee’s soccer squad opened its effort toward a fifth straight Cape Fear Valley Conference soccer crown Wednesday night and the Cavaliers took care of business for their 52nd straight CFVC win.
The final, a 5-1 win over visiting Gray’s Creek (4-1, 1-1), looked like another fine Cavalier romp by the end of the night. The Bears provided a more tense challenge than the score indicated, at least for nearly 60 minutes of the match.
The Bears struck for the first goal of the night. The Cavaliers answered in the next minute and led 2-1 at halftime, then put the match out of reach with two goals, including Alex Palme finishing off a hat trick, less than 50 seconds apart in the 59th minute.
The Cavaliers, as usual, especially in CFVC play, dictated the possession and most of the attacking play in the early minutes. The Cavs notched the first six shots of the match but Gray’s Creek handled the pressure and turned a couple counterattacks into dangerous chances leading up to taking the lead.
On a long ball out of the Bear half of the field, forward Tyler Nelson, after narrowly missing a similar chance a few minutes earlier, raced past the Cavalier defenders and dribbled around oncoming keeper Jeremy Hoover. From a narrowing angle off to the left of goal, Nelson tucked his shot into the net for a 1-0 Bear lead in the 23rd minute.
The Cavs wasted no time thinking about being down a goal and answered practically off the ensuing kickoff. Good possession along the right wing led to Juan Penaloza chipping a soft pass for Isaias Cruz near the penalty spot and Cruz hitting a finessed shot into the low, left corner of the goal in the 24th minute.
Southern Lee kept the ball and the flowing attacks coming and Palme scored his first goal, with a low 15-yard strike off Tyler McCoy’s long ball from near midfield, in the 31st minute.
Palme got the next goal, crashing the net to bundle in a loose ball which might’ve been crossing the goal line anyway after Misa Piedra played a ball from just past the left post setting off the scramble on the line which Palme capitalized on.
Gray’s Creek still made the hosts nervous on a couple of occasions, including one attack along the right side of the Cavalier box leading to a shot and center defender Sullivan Reece chesting a save away near the right post to keep the Cavs ahead 3-1.
A few minutes later, the Cavaliers struck twice within the 59th minute. Fine passing and movement by Piedra and Cruz from midfield and down the left flank led to Piedra passing to Palme for a shot in the middle of the box. Palme nailed the base of the right post with his first shot, then knocked in the rebound for his third goal.
Piedra and Cruz combined again seconds later, ending with Cruz’s second goal, a strike from the left side of the box which found the net just inside the far post.
“I’m really proud of them for coming back,” said Southern Lee head coach Chris Palme, who’s also Alex’s father.
“Honestly, I’m really impressed with the defense,” he said. “We beat a good team tonight and it was a match we needed.”
Hoover made three saves in the first half. Colin Yoder made two saves in goal in the second half. Southern Lee outshot Gray’s Creek 29-14 in total shots and 10-7 in shots on goal.
The Cavaliers (3-0-1, 1-0-0) face two road tests next week; at Jack Britt Tuesday night and at Union Pines Wednesday night.