Cavaliers edge Lee County, 2-1
Southern Lee’s soccer team survived a big effort from its county rival, hitting the crossbar three times and getting the worst side of a bunch of cards handed out in the final few minutes of the match Monday night for a 2-1 victory at Lee County.
In the first-ever Cape Fear Valley Conference match between the Cavaliers (9-0-2, 4-0-1) and the Yellow Jackets (4-5-1, 2-3-1), Isaias Cruz scored the go-ahead goal for the visiting Cavs, tapping in Alex Palme’s shot, which had beaten the goalkeeper and was goal-bound anyway, in the 62nd minute.
The Cavaliers and Jackets put on a show of wild, end-to-end action and physical play from the start. The tempo became faster and more heated late in the match with the Cavaliers protecting their 2-1 lead.
Shortly after the Cruz goal, Lee County left back Payton Jackson, making a run all the way to end line on the left side of the Cavalier penalty box, fired a dangerous cross through the Cavalier six-yard box. Two Jackets came inches from a touch they needed for a goal.
Cavalier midfielder Alex Palme drilled a long shot, from well out on the left flank about 25 yards from goal, off the bar with eight minutes remaining. The Cavaliers, with shots by Jair Cejudo and Misa Piedra, hit the crossbar twice in the first half, with the Cavaliers believing Piedra’s shot actually found the goal and bounded back into the field of play.
The Cavaliers gained the lead in the ninth minute. From a throw-in deep in Lee County’s half, along the right sideline, the Cavs moved the
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ball quickly setting up Piedra. Piedra struck a knee-high right-footed shot from 22 yards off the crossbar, bounding down and past the goal line.
The Yellow Jackets, coming into the match trying to build on a 4-1 conference win over Westover last Wednesday, played confidently despite going down 1-0 quickly.
The Jackets’ Ivan Mireles raced down a long ball and drew a foul, one stride beyond the top of the Cavalier penalty box. Instead of a penalty kick, the Jacket free kick went for nothing.
Lee County keeper Hunter Watson made five saves, a couple being outstanding, athletic saves to stop drilled Cavalier strikes, in the opening half.
Keeping the score 1-0 paid off for the Jackets in the 25th minute when another free kick, with Jackson sending a 25-yard boot from the right to the far post of the Cavalier goal, ended with Emrique Lee, one of the shortest players on the field, getting up to head the ball into the net from a few yards away.
Throughout the 80 minutes, a good offensive chance at one end usually led to a fast counterattack and the action ending up in the opposite box a few seconds later. That’s how the Cavaliers got their second goal.
Juan Penaloza won a loose ball in midfield and before more Jackets could respond on defense, Penaloza played a long pass to Palme on a run toward the right side of the Lee County box. With Watson charging to reach the ball before Palme did, Palme slid and sent the ball toward goal. Cruz made sure the rolling ball crossed the line.
After no cards through the first 55 minutes, but plenty of tackles and words exchanged, each squad got three cards from there, with four of the six coming in the last six minutes.
A late tackle from behind by Lee County’s Ian Frye on Palme, which was right at the Cavalier bench, earned Frye a yellow card. In the ensuing action after the whistle, Ethan Helsman was given a red card. Helsman, a starting center midfielder for the Cavaliers, didn’t play and wasn’t in uniform.
The Jackets put together one final burst into the Cavalier box in the last minute. Tyler North’s shot was deflected wide for a corner kick. The corner produced a scramble in front of the Cavalier goal until keeper Jeremy Hoover pounced on a chipped pass near the left post.
Hoover finished with five saves. Watson made six saves for Lee County. Southern Lee outshot the Jackets 15-13 in overall shots. Fouls were 17-11 in Southern Lee’s favor.
Southern Lee, according to maxpreps.com, is ranked No. 38 in the nation, No. 15 in North Carolina and No. 3 in NCHSAA 3A. Terry Sanford, at 5-0-1 in the CFVC after a 9-0 win versus Westover Monday night, leads the Cavaliers by a half-game atop the CFVC.
The Cavaliers host Douglas Byrd in a league match at 6 p.m. this evening. The Yellow Jackets play at Gray’s Creek tonight at 7 p.m. Gray’s Creek beat Lee County 4-0 in Sanford on Sept. 3.