Dale routs Meadowbrook, secures district title
By JACOB VAUGHAN, Sports Editor
May 10, 2013, 16:02
Thomas Dale senior Brooks Reiber (14) flicks a cross from Grayson Smith (foreground) past Meadowbrook goalkeeper Ernest Kabushemeye during a Central District game on Thursday in Chester. The Knights won 8-0 and clinched the regular-season district title (photo by David Breidenbach).
CHESTER – Seven weeks to the day after sustaining a season-opening loss to Colonial Heights, the Thomas Dale boys soccer team claimed its 12th Central District win on the trot by dismantling Meadowbrook, 8-0, on Thursday at Ed Karpus Field in Chester.
The lop-sided victory clinched the regular-season district title for the Knights and took second-year Monarchs coach Billy Rudd on an unpleasant trip down memory lane.
Rudd – a 2007 Meadowbrook graduate who played four years of varsity soccer at the district’s northernmost school – said the Knights’ performance evoked memories of playing against Thomas Dale’s state-title-winning teams of 2005 and 2006.
“They just clicked on all cylinders,” Rudd said. “There was no stopping them.”
Whether Thomas Dale will return to the Group AAA tournament remains to be seen, but Thursday’s vintage performance ensured the perennial powerhouse will be a top-seeded inclusion in the Central Region bracket.
“This guarantees us a home game in the region, which is huge,” said Knights coach Mark Fowler. “That’s what we were looking for at the start of the season, and obviously we’re very happy to achieve it.”
Thomas Dale senior Grayson Smith (21) scores from close range during a Central District game against visiting Meadowbrook on Thursday. Smith scored three times in an 8-0 win (photo by David Breidenbach).
Senior Grayson Smith scored three goals – a side-footed finish in the fifth minute, a close-range volley in the 28th and a penalty kick in the 74th – to pace the home team’s potent offense.
“I think we played pretty well tonight,” Smith said. “We finally started playing like we practice. We made runs beyond the ball and we were physical.”
Vaughn Fowler and Matt Mangano notched two goals apiece, but it was senior Brooks Reiber who opened the scoring after three minutes by cleverly back-heeling Smith’s low cross past Meadowbrook goalkeeper Ernest Kabushemeye.
The Knights, who led 3-0 after 15 minutes and 5-0 at halftime, shifted seamlessly from defense to offense and enjoyed an 18-1 advantage in shots on goal.
“I’m very pleased today,” Mark Fowler said. “We came out and got a couple goals in the first five minutes, and the game becomes a lot easier then for you. The pressure is off when you score two that quickly.”
Six of the goals were born of well-placed crosses into the 18-yard box.
“It wasn’t just the finishing,” Mark Fowler said. “It was the movement and the width we played with. I thought the crossing was excellent tonight, and obviously when we put it in good areas, we got people on the end of it.”
The Knights held a pre-game ceremony to honor the contributions of eight seniors, all of whom started the penultimate regular-season contest.
“They’re quality individuals, and I can’t say enough good things about them,” Fowler said. “I’ve coached a lot of those kids since they were eight or nine years old, so it’s quite special for me to see them perform at that level.”
With the win, Thomas Dale improved to 12-1 in district play and 12-2-1 on the season. Smith said the team hopes to improve upon last year’s postseason showing, which saw the Knights fall to Cosby in the region championship game.
“We definitely miss a few players from last year, like Antonio [Carrabotta], Tony [Groben] and Dan [Lauretano],” Smith said. “But we have our own differences on this team. It works better for us sometimes and it works worse for us other times. We just have to keep working on our weaknesses and play towards our strengths.”
The Monarchs slipped to 9-2-2 in district play (11-2-2 overall) with the setback. Meadowbrook will play host to No. 3 Colonial Heights (9-3) in the regular-season finale on Tuesday.
“We just have to find ourselves and get back to what we’ve been doing,” Rudd said. “That’s playing team soccer, winning the ball, working together and communicating. We just have to get back to normal.
“You’re not going to see a Thomas Dale team every day.”
Prince George, a 2-1 winner over Colonial Heights on Thursday, lurks in fourth place with a district mark of 8-4-1.
Meadowbrook 0 0 – 0
Thomas Dale 5 3 – 8
Goals: Smith 3, V. Fowler 2, Mangano 2, Reiber.
Saves: Bach (TD) 1, Kadushemeye (MBK) 10.
Records: Thomas Dale 12-2-1 (12-1 Central); Meadowbrook 11-2-2 (9-2-2).