Prep soccer: Salisbury 2, Piedmont 0
By Mike London
Salisbury junior Matt Cervantes plays soccer like a basketball point guard and slickly set up both goals in a 2-0 victory against Piedmont in the second round of the 2A playoffs on Saturday.
“Never selfish,” Cervantes said with a smile. “I like to pass to my teammates and they were in the right positions.”
Jordy Sanchez punched in a first-half goal for the Hornets, while scoring ace Kenny Bonilla benefited from Cervantes’ passing skills and put the match away.
With a squad that depends primarily on sophomores and juniors, seventh-ranked Salisbury (22-1-1) has won a dozen in a row and hasn’t lost since Sept. 28.
“Yes, it’s nice to go down the list and see all those sophomores, but we don’t talk anymore about what class these guys are in,” SHS coach Tom Sexton said. “When you get this many tough games under you’re belt you’re weathered a little bit. The sophomores aren’t sophomores anymore.”
Piedmont’s starting keeper exited with 16:10 left to play, the recipient of a red card doled out for excessive verbal activity. The penalty swelled to a double red after he apparently added creative sign language to the list of charges.
Playing at home at Ludwig Stadium, the Hornets managed to focus their energies on the task at the hand.
“It was a high-intensity match, and the red card was part of that,” Sexton said. “I was pleased that we kept our composure. That was important because any team that gets to the second round is good enough to beat you.”
T.J. Doster was the scorer for Piedmont (14-7-1), but he didn’t get many touches. Salisbury coaches had scouted Piedmont’s win over Central Davidson on Wednesday and saw what he could do if given freedom to roam.
“The coaches had them scouted and we’d talked about No. 19 (Doster) a lot,” senior Wes McNeely said. “We were well-prepared and we had a better defensive night than in the first round of the playoffs (a 4-2 win against Ashe County). I think we were better tonight in every aspect.”
The lone goal of the first half came at the 20:41 mark.
“I saw the defense coming at me so I stepped back,” Cervantes said. “Then I saw Jordy standing right there where he was supposed to be and got it to him.”
Ten minutes later, the Hornets withstood a wild sequence in front of their goal. Salisbury keeper Connor Miller came well out from the net and was on the ground, popping up and down in heavy traffic. He fought off a flurry of shots.
“I got a lot of help from Spencer (Dixon),” Miller said. “I kind of got a hand on one shot. Then they kicked one right into my chest. We were pretty lucky to get that one out of there, but overall we had a very good defensive game. The shutouts are always nice.”
Sexton praised defensive stalwarts McNeely, Dixon, Luke Hutton, David Simons and John Grant.
“Hutton and Simons are busted up a little bit right now,” Sexton said. “But when we ask those guys to do something they go out there and do it. And it helps out your defense when you possess the ball as much as we did,”
Salisbury controlled the first half but didn’t finish anything other than Sanchez’ goal.
Then early in the second half, Piedmont stepped up the pressure.
“We saw that No. 19 (Doster) was starting to run harder looking for a leak in the defense and Piedmont was starting to get a few chances,” Sexton said. We felt like we needed a momentum-changer so we started using Saryee to mark him and that did it,” Sexton said.
No one was comfortable at 1-0, but the Hornets finally got breathing room with 11:40 left to play when they attacked off the free kick that followed a tripping penalty.
Cervantes took control of a ricochet on the left side and crossed to Bonilla, who had a pointblank shot.
“He touched it in ó he didn’t just blast it ó and that’s what we need more of,” Sexton said. “A few more nice finishes would take some of the pressure off.”
NOTES: Salisbury stays home to face familiar foe East Lincoln (18-6-1) in the third round. Sexton said that match is set for Wednesday… East Lincoln beat East Davidson 4-2 on Saturday, while Shelby eliminated Salisbury’s big rival West Davidson 2-1 … Salisbury was scheduled to play East Lincoln on Oct. 24, but that match was canceled because of field conditions.