Salisbury soccer blanks CATA, 3-0

Published 11:50 pm Thursday, September 12, 2019

By David Shaw

SALISBURY — Some victories are worth waiting for.

Salisbury’s boys soccer team endured a 42-minute weather delay Thursday night at Ludwig Stadium, then re-emerged with a vengeance to post a 3-0 non-league triumph against perennial power Central Academy of Technology & Arts.

“I take tonight’s match, not necessarily as a win in the statistical column, but in the mental column,” coach Matt Parrish said, moments after Salisbury (5-2) earned its third victory this week and fifth in a row. “We could have used any excuse. We’d already won the two most important games of the week. This team is not in our conference. Everybody was hot. But these guys took a step and showed leadership. You can’t script it. It either happens or doesn’t happen. But when it does happen, they have to do it.”

It started happening after the match was halted with 20:21 remaining in the first half, when the referee cleared the stadium due to distant thunder. CATA coach Jay Niessner did not welcome the stoppage.

“I really liked how we started the match,” he said. “We were doing what we wanted to do. But the break took something out of us that we never got back.”

CATA, a disappointing 1-7 against a top-shelf schedule, suffered its fifth consecutive loss. The Cougars have been shut out in three straight matches.

“Still, we had to come out and play our game,” SHS defender Juan Garcia-Cortez said. “We definitely weren’t playing our best before that delay. We had to regroup. We went inside, talked about our game plan and what we had to work on.”

Whatever was said, it sparked the Hornets. Within three minutes, Garcia-Cortez was called on to sweep a ball away from danger just five feet from the goal line with Salisbury keeper Jude Lockhart trapped out-of-position.

“All I saw was the keeper come out,” he explained. “My first instinct was to go behind him and cover. I saw the ball, saw the line and just cleared it.”

The next 12 minutes were played mostly between the “18s,” with few scoring opportunities. Salisbury took a 1-0 lead with 5:18 remaining in the opening half on a set play initiated by forward Portillo. He drilled a free kick from the right side that reached the doorstep, where teammate Hugo Trujillo tucked a shot behind CATA keeper Seth Averill.

“I noticed the ball coming down faster than it should have,” Trujillo said. “It went straight to my chest and I was able to control it. Then I saw three CATA defenders standing right there and knew I had to hit it out of the air — and fast.”

Two minutes later, the Hornets doubled their lead. Following a foul in the penalty area, Juan Salazar buried a PK that provided a 2-0 halftime advantage.

“Yeah, but we knew we couldn’t get too confident,” said Garcia-Cortez. “Especially against this team. We had to keep defending as a team.”

“They liked to kick and crash,” added Trujillo. “And you never want to give the ball away in the middle. That was a key.”

Josh Portillo closed the scoring 10 minutes into the second half when he ran down a 40-yard clearing attempt, penetrated from the left side and slid a 12-yard grounder past Averill.

In the meantime, Lockhart was putting together a well-focused game in the Salisbury cage. Considered the team’s second-string keeper behind Wade Robins, the junior made eight saves and posted the Hornets’ second shutout. His best stop came in the closing minutes, when he deflected a wicked, 30-yard free kick just over the crossbar.

“(Lockhart) plays very, very aggressive,” Parrish noted. “And he’s a large person. Somebody called him a man-child, which is a fair assessment. He’s just a big dude. If we can refine him a little bit, he’s gonna help us.”

Afterward, Niessner defended his team’s performance, but made sure to praise Salisbury’s.

“We can’t miss chances like we did tonight,” he said. “We created opportunities, but couldn’t put any balls away. It’s always going to be a tough match with Salisbury. There’s a reason why they’re in the playoffs year-in and year-out.”

NOTES: SHS held a 12-10 edge in shots attempted and a 6-1 advantage in corner kicks. … Salisbury’s Brayan Avilez had a goal disallowed in the game’s seventh minute. … Trujillo and CATA’s Jake Fabrizio were shown yellow cards. … Salisbury improved to 5-0 at home against the Cougars. … CATA hosts East Rowan on Monday. SHS faces a tell-tale week, with CCC matches at Oak Grove on Monday and at Ledford on Wednesday.