Salisbury soccer blanks East Rowan, 9-0

Published 9:12 pm Thursday, September 5, 2019

By David Shaw

GRANITE QUARRY — It didn’t take Salisbury long to turn Thursday’s boys soccer match into a well-organized layup drill.

The Hornets — a team hoping to fly this season — got their wheels off the ground with an abbreviated 9-0 victory at East Rowan.

“Back where we should be,” longtime coach Matt Parrish told his group, after it squared its overall record at 2-2. “We’ve had some pretty solid success over the course of the last couple years, but we’ve lost a lot of players. Sometimes new players come in to your program and automatically assume the results will follow you. That’s not the case.”

It wasn’t this season, when Salisbury dropped its first two matches — both at home, including a 5-2 conference loss to Thomasville. It’s rebounded to post consecutive wins against West Davidson and now the under-manned Mustangs (1-4).

“Oh-and-two, that wasn’t an easy feeling,” said SHS junior midfielder Gabriel Fuentes-Reyes. “I couldn’t sleep at all. We have to humbly remember the past, but realize that each season you have to start new. Even if you won a championship, you have to start over.”

Fuentes-Reyes provided an honest night’s work, contributing three assists. His third, on a breakaway goal by Juan Garcia-Cortez with 24:22 remaining in the second half, ended the match by mercy rule.

“It’s like our attitude wasn’t right, the first couple games,” said sophomore forward Colin Donaldson, a cancer survivor who sat out last season. “We kind of expected to be good. For me, 0-2 felt like a big pit in my stomach.”

This one felt different. Eight different players scored for the Hornets, who deposited seven of their first nine shots-on-goal behind freshman keeper Gavin Gullett. They held an 8-1 edge on corner kicks. Brody Dillon and Angel Quintero converted penalty kicks. Reserve forward Will Webb scored on a slow ground ball and a bullet line drive, just 50 seconds apart late in the opening half. And winning keeper Wade Robins, a take-charge sophomore, stopped all three shots he faced to notch the team’s first shutout.

“You’d turn around and they were all coming at you at once,” East defender Austin Lloyd said, moments after the Mustangs were outshot 12-3. “They were wearing us down.”

East, it should be noted, played without starting center back Drew Roane — an all-conference candidate — and had three other regulars playing through injuries. Coach David Whitaker, to his credit, didn’t use that as a crutch.

“This is our third game in three days,” he explained. “We played Concord, who is top 20 in the state this year; Central Davidson, which made a deep run in the states last year; and then we run into Salisbury, which is already (ticked) off as it is. We’ve had a rough week, to say the least.”

Last night’s assault started in the 14th minute, when Fuentes-Reyes threaded a lovely through pass to Josh Portillo for the game’s first score. Three minutes later, Dillon blasted a PK past Gullett’s right side. Then the born-to-be-wild Hornets fired all of their guns at once — burying five consecutive shots in less than eight minutes — to open a 7-0 halftime lead. The most-celebrated came when Donaldson headed a door-step feed by Chris Portillo for his varsity goal and a 5-0 advantage.

“I flicked it off my head,” he said with a post-match smile, “and it felt like it took five minutes to cross the line.”

Second-half goals by Quintero and Garcia-Cortez ended the onslaught and sent the crowd home early. “There was a lot of connections with passes,” said Fuentes-Reyes. “This was old-school Salisbury today.”

And an exhausting day for East.

“We were tired,” Whitaker said. “And I think the more tired we got, the more we became frustrated with ourselves. We challenged Salisbury one, two, three, four times and looked pretty good in the beginning. But they were too strong. Maybe when we’re fully healthy, this is a different game.”

Or maybe this was Salisbury turning a corner.

“I think we took a couple steps,” Parrish concluded. “I don’t think we found anything. We’re starting to play the way we want to play, but it’s taking some time to get everyone acclimated. It’s a patient process — for all of us.”

NOTES: The game’s prettiest goal came with 14:27 remaining in the first half, when Hugo Trujillo re-directed a lefty corner kick by Fuentes-Reyes and made it 3-0. … Gullett recorded two saves for East. … The Mustangs have lost three straight, each by 9-0 counts. They’ll visit Mount Pleasant on Monday and South Rowan on Tuesday. … Salisbury returns to CCC action Monday at Lexington.