Per coach and recap author Diccon Ong, victory continues to elude the boys, but seems to draw increasingly near.
It was raining hard just a half an hour before your heroes, the WRA C-Squad Boys Soccer Team, were set to depart for their third away game of the Fall 2022 season. It was our second game of the month against the Beachwood Bisons. That first contest took place on our very own varsity front field. [Author’s Note: In the twenty-five years I have been a proud member of the WRA Soccer Program (most of those spent as a coach working with C-Squad and TFFC players) the C-Squad had never before had an opportunity to play on this revered field, soaked so full of decades of Reserve soccer memories.] This time around, however, the Bisons would be ranging on their own plains. Despite this arguable advantage, we did ourselves a favor and arrived (for the first time of our three road games) well in advance of the opening whistle. Happily, by the time we arrived at their main football stadium (another relative rarity for our squad) the weather had cleared, and it looked as though we’d at least enjoy a dry game. Our early arrival, harkened by a notable break in the cloud cover revealing a warm and welcoming sun, allowed us ample opportunity to get in a solid warm-up, and as things were set to begin it seemed as though our guys were ready finally to prove themselves. Things got off to a fairly impressive start. We had the ball to begin the half and enjoyed something close to an 80%-20% advantage in possession throughout the first 36 minutes. While our solid tactical play was admittedly intermixed with some
of our usual foibles (e.g., poor communication, inaccurate passing, slow decision making, wings failing to maintain our width on the field, players occasionally not getting back quickly enough on defense, etc.), we nevertheless appeared to be playing with a drive and intensity that seemed something new for us. It didn’t hurt that we had added freshman Griffin Vaughn to our ranks, and he proved himself one of the most talented players on the field. Griffin and our two other midfielders, freshmen Thomas Casey and Sanam Mody, did a nice job of working the ball around and effectively engaging the aid of our freshman wingers Julian Farian and Evan Williams. Center forward, sophomore Bob Fan, made his presence known to the Beachwood defenders and caused them a good deal of trouble. Our quartet of backs, freshman Grant Adams, sophomore Harley Gu, freshman Jayden Kersh, and freshman Finn Frato-Sweeney, proved a formidable foursome, and more often than not denied any wandering Bison from grazing long upon our half of the field. Unfortunately, despite the effectiveness of our combined offensive and defensive efforts, which allowed us to contain and control the ball on their side of the pitch for most of the half, we simply couldn’t finish. Then, in a rare counterattack orchestrated by our opponents, a single Bison broke loose from the herd and converted a one-on-one with our sophomore keeper, Asher Biehn, in the tenth minute of the game. To their credit, our boys rebounded quickly after this unexpected development and quickly regained control of play. Still, throughout the rest of the
half, we couldn’t manage to get off more than a couple of shots, both of which were easily handled by the Beachwood keeper. The half ended with the team that had dominated the play down by a goal. Frustrating, to say the least. As has become his custom, Coach Gilbert gave an excellent halftime talk combining some well-deserved praise for the boys’ fine first-half efforts with equal measures of much needed instruction on several more efficient and effective tactics our boys would need to employ in the second half if they wished to turn things around. Gilbert’s final message to the boys was to dial up the pressure on Beachwood’s offensive players, setting the goal of keeping the ball on their defensive half of the field.
That’s exactly what our boys did. Despite having only two bench field players to rotate in so as to give our starters an occasional breather, your Pioneers all played with an admirable sense of abandon. Once again, we enjoyed most of the possession. Whenever we did occasionally lose the ball, a switch would seem to flip and multiple waves of our players would descend on whichever unfortunate Bison had the ball until we had retrieved it. Beachwood only rarely got the ball near our 18’ and never once got off a true shot. They did earn their first and only corner of
the game, but it was sent harmlessly into the side netting. By contrast, in the seventeenth minute of the half a ball played in from our left wing landed in the Beachwood box and was batted about by a few players from each team before finally being tapped, by freshman Alex Lee, onto the edge of the right post, barely managing to break the plain of the goal before the Bison keeper pulled it back into his arms. We had tied the game! And at the risk of revealing a predisposition towards overconfidence, it seemed to this humble observer that it would be just a matter of
time before we converted again and pulled ahead. To be sure, we had our chances. Twice, Griffin Vaughn managed to get his head on a ball crossed in from a wing, but in both instances the redirected ball floated just a tad high and landed on top of the goal rather than inside of it. And so it goes some days. Despite our dominance over the direction of play, we just couldn’t make that final smart pass to provide us an undefendable shot. And thus it ended. Another tie game. Our first victory may continue to elude us, but could it be that we just saw a break in the clouds today?