Hopewell Dictates Tempo In Loss
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
May 1, 2014, 22:24
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
PRINCE GEORGE — The circumstances did nothing to favor Hopewell as they faced a critical road match against a heavily favored Prince George squad which has surprised with a dominant start to their season. The Blue Devils entered the match without their starting goalkeeper — Kolbe Granderson received a red-card in a loss to Dinwiddie last week — along with other team issues which limited the playing time available for other players.
Yet, once the opening whistle sounded, the Blue Devils shoved all of the negativity aside and played an inspiring brand of soccer. Tentative offensively for much of the season while spending ages in their own defensive end, Hopewell dictated the pace of play against the Royals. Just 30 seconds into the match, Tyler Jordan found himself in behind the Prince George defense but was a fraction too early for an offsides call.
But instead of putting their collective heads down after nearly completing a key play to begin the game, the Blue Devils continued to push forward in waves to set up chances for Jordan, Scott Layne and Zack Hipps. With every blasted attempt at net — Hopewell finished with at least 12 attempts on the night — it seemed the Blue Devils would eventually find the elusive goal.
However, as the missed chances began to pile up on top of one another and the Royals' withstanding each surge, the tides began to tip the other way. The Royals' Darion Mealing found a soft-spot in the Blue Devils' defense and took a left-footed crack at net which found twine and gave his team a 1-0 lead in the 59' minute.
Prince George would dictate much of the action over the final 20 minutes until a late Hopewell surge almost resulted in an equalizer for Quaron Fitzgerald, but he was halted on a one-on-one chance by Royals' goalkeeper Logan Chadek. The wasted opportunity gave way to two late Prince George goals, wasting away the Blue Devils' best effort of the season in a 3-0 loss.
"I couldn't ask these kids to do anymore than they did tonight," head coach Brad Dalton said while referring to the rash of injuries and sickness. "I'm so proud of the way they played tonight. We kept our heads, didn't let them get under our skin and I think we surprised them with the way we came out."
And key to the dominant offensive attack was the quick-passing system which finally gained the fluidity it has been missing.
With each build-up through the back, Hopewell players would make devastating runs off the ball which made each attack that more dangerous with numerous options instead of a few. It wasn't just the midfielders who made the good runs, but also the defense with Layne leading the way.
In the 19' minute, Layne and Jordan both made left-flank runs down the sideline and played off one another as the Hopewell left-back got in behind the defense and took a crack at net with his right-foot as it sailed just high over the crossbar. And Jordan would make plenty of other dangerous runs with multiple scoring chances with shots that either went just wide or were corralled while hooking up with Fitzgerald on the flanks.
While the shots would go down as missed chances, the fact his team created them impressed Dalton.
"We're learning to play this formation and we're learning that it has to be constant movement," Dalton explained. "We always had someone moving into the space that somebody else created. As a coach, it's one of those moments that you see what you worked on in practice transferred over to the game."
Ryan Lazo/Hopewell News/News-Patriot
But for Dylan Tracey and emergency starter in net Owen Apprhamian, their success came off of pure instinct which cannot be worked on in any simulation during practice.
Apprhamian, the junior varsity goalkeeper, made 10 huge saves including back-to-back world-class stops to keep Mealing off the scoreboard early in the second half, not to mention the other moments where his quick-thinking to step up in the box thwarted other chances as well.
However, he was also helped out by the otherworldly effort from Tracey.
The junior midfielder saved the ball from creeping over the line and into net on three separate occasions, including possibly the play of the year after coming out of nowhere to make a sliding kick save early in the first half. Additionally, Tracey did a great job offensively as well, connecting passes through the midfield while making life difficult for Mealing on the opposite sideline. The effort did not go unnoticed.
"He saved one off the line and another that was close to it. He made great runs and neutralized Darion for the majority of the game," Dalton said. "Unless we get a bicycle-kick from 50 yards out, that is the play of the year so far. He came from nowhere and took it off the line. You can't ask for any more effort than he puts into every minute he plays."
His Hopewell teammates followed his lead against the Royals and although it ended in a loss, their best effort of the season gives hope for the rest of the campaign as the conference tournament inches ever closer.