Winning handily in Stratton helped their cause, improving their record to 12-1 on the year, and outscoring opponents by three or more goals for the ninth time this year.
The game began as a struggle, and it was Stratton who struck first, scoring 10-minutes into the game. It was only the second time all season the Wildcats have trailed in a game, the other time coming with a loss to Springfield, 1-0.
Dale Braverman scored off a scrum in the box following a Stratton corner kick. Twin Valley’s backs were uncharacteristically unable to clear the ball, and Braverman put it out of goalie Sam Molner’s reach. A Morrow Bernard header would tie the game 11 minutes later off a Dal Nesbitt throw-in, and send the game to halftime tied.
“I was really curious to see how the boys would respond to being behind,” said Hayford. “They kept their composure, they stuck with the game plan.”
Twin Valley would stick to the game plan they have employed all season, playing good defense, and putting the ball in the back of the net. These are fundamentals of the game, but for Twin Valley, putting the ball in the back of the net has became more of a hobby then a fundamental. In the second half, the Wildcats opened the floodgates, pouring on six more goals.
Four minutes into the half, Nesbitt scored his first goal, ripping a shot from the top of the box, through the hands and legs of Stratton goalie Josh Cohen. Four minutes later Colin Lozito got an unassisted goal in usual fashion, driving the ball through multiple defenders up field.
The three-goal lead that Hayford described as a comfortable cushion came at the 63-minute mark when Eli Park scored on a corner kick from Lozito, heading the ball in for a 4-1 lead. Lozito and Nesbitt would each get their second goal soon thereafter, creating a 6-1 lead.
Twin Valley kept pouring it on until the last whistle when Bernard ended the game just as he started it, scoring on a pass from Nick Nilsen at the 78-minute mark and capping a 7-1 trouncing.
L&G 3, TV 1
TOWNSHEND- Twin Valley was knocked out of first place in division IV rankings Tuesday night in a 3-1 loss on the road to Leland & Gray, setting the stage for a dramatic end-of-season match-up against a Proctor team that now holds the number one spot. From this point on, mistakes can be the difference between life and death for a team that has outscored their opponents 61-10 in 13 games, and Coach Hayford knows the stakes are high.
Hayford expects his boys to respond the same way they have all season, and play with their usual aggressive style. “They know what it comes down to. Do your job, lay it all on the field, and play like there’s no tomorrow, once we get into next week. We all have to play with the same sense of urgency, and that’s something these guys do, win or lose.”
Twin Valley’s strengths would become their Achilles’ heel Tuesday night as Leland & Gray took advantage of disorganization by the Wildcats’ typically smash-mouth defense inside the box. All of Leland & Gray’s goals came on corner kick opportunities, leaving no doubt as to where the trouble lies for this powerful Twin Valley team. “We had three mistakes on their corner kicks which is something we don’t generally have issues with,” said Hayford. “Our lack of desire to be first to the ball was basically what cost us in this game.”
Leland & Gray scored two goals in the first half, with Jake Sherman settling a loose ball off a corner kick at the eighth minute. Twin Valley gave Sherman all the time in the world to set himself and the ball in line, and rip a 15-yard shot past goalie Sam Molner. Colin Nystrom would add to the lead at the 36-minute mark.
The Wildcats’ ability to pressure defenses has been another strong point this season, and while there were flashes of their usual speed and opportunistic play, the shots didn’t fall and too many close calls summed up their evening offensively. In the first half, Twin Valley showed some fight. Nick Nilsen drove to the net, collided with Leland & Gray goalie Tanner Karg at the 38th minute, and was awarded a penalty kick. Perennial scorer Colin Lozito deposited a shot in the back of the net to cut the lead in half going into the break.
At halftime, Hayford tried to motivate his squad, telling them the next goal would decide the game. A two-score lead would be tough to overcome on rival Leland & Gray’s home turf, and scoring would put them right back in it. What would it be?
Once again Leland & Gray turned up the pressure, and scored that decisive goal with 17 minutes left on the clock. Nystrom collected his second score on another corner kick into the goalie box. Twin Valley’s inability to clear the ball once again bested them, putting the score at that insurmountable two-goal lead Hayford warned against.
In his usual high spirits, Hayford said the loss would transcend into something positive going forward. “It’s disappointing, I wouldn’t characterize us as soft, but on those corner kicks we were. I know they will learn something from this lesson. It’s high school soccer, and when you get into the tournament it comes down to one thing: desire, and sometimes it takes this kind of thing for it to happen.”
Second-ranked Twin Valley goes on the road for their regular-season finale against number one Proctor on Friday at 4 pm.