Similarly in terms of wins and losses, but different in terms of play, the Rockdale/Alcovy soccer boys/girls matches ended like they did last time – with Rockdale’s boys winning and Alcovy’s girls winning.
The No. 3 and No. 4 seeds in Region 2-AAAAAA kicked off play Thursday evening, and although Alcovy played much better than they did when they faced Rockdale’s boys the first time – when Rockdale won 10-1 – the Bulldogs still got the victory at Alcovy, 3-1.
Alcovy started the game on a good foot, literally. The Tigers’ Taylor Cheek scored in the first minute and 13 seconds of the game on a nice long lead pass from about 25 yards out from Camani Smith.
“Going down one goal in the first couple of minutes that’s always a big one. Little [Taylor] Cheek there, he’s a good player. They’ve got a good squad,” Alf Holst, RCHS head soccer coach, said.
Alcovy didn’t see many scoring opportunities on the night, as Rockdale’s midfield controlled the ball well.
“We didn’t have our touch,” Chris Edgar, Tigers’ head coach, said. “We’d get the ball and then it would get five yards away from us, which is never good. They’re too technical of a team to allow that to happen.”
Rockdale would score its first goal – an assist from Hakeem Vilafana to Jacob Colver – with less than 28 minutes to play in the second half. Rockdale’s midfield dominated the night, but credit to Alcovy for not laying down.
“I think talent-wise we have a lot of really talented players. A lot of young players as well,” Holst said. “A couple big additions on our team too, with Hakeem Vilafana and Nathan Morgan. They’re our wingers. They’re real fast players. The Woodruff twins of course, running the show. Shad-i Dawkins as well. They’re all quality players that can pass the ball.”
The teams traded corners over the next few minutes with neither of them being able to convert until Rockdale was awarded a free kick with 12 minutes to go in the half. After a wall of Alcovy players blocked the free kick attempt, Rockdale rebounded the ball and Bryan Mais netted one in from the left inside the the box.
The Bulldogs went into halftime with a 2-1 lead. The two teams played about five minutes of the second half before it was stalled due to a lightning delay. About an hour later the teams returned to the pitch.
Vilafana scored the Bulldogs’ final goal of the game at the 24:37 mark of the second half. Cheek hit a defender with a nice in-and-out move to get free and speed toward the goal but the keeper – freshman Maxwell Kaiser – blocked the shot attempt to keep the Tigers at bay. Vilafana finished with one goal and one assist.
“Just his speed is terrifying,” Holst said. “He’s so unorthodox. I don’t know if he even knows what he’s doing on the field sometimes. Sometimes it happens for him and it happened for him tonight.”
The game pretty much solidifies Rockdale as the No. 3 seed and Alcovy as the No. 4 in the region.
“I’ve got a ton of respect for Alf. We’re friends and he’s got a good squad. We’re both going to the playoffs,” Edgar said.
Alcovy has come a long way since that 10-1 thrashing by Rockdale a few weeks ago and Edgar recognizes their effort.
“I did think coach [Edgar] over there did a good job in switching and containing us because last time we played we kind of put it to ‘em. This time whatever he did it was working because it was frustrating our guys. Their keeper made some key saves,” Holst said.
“The last time we played them I felt like we quit. They scored early and we just didn’t respond at all,” Edgar said. “I think last week helped a lot. We have some confidence. We’ve made a few changes in personnel and where they’re at and then I challenged them. I said, “Guys, they put it on you pretty good last time. They’re a good team. Let’s see if you can step up.” And we need to start peaking, heading into the playoffs. If we get better and get better then that’s all you can ask for.”
While the Tigers improved in defeat, the girls improved in dominant winning fashion, with an 8-0 win over the Lady Bulldogs slightly better than the Lady Tigers’ 5-0 win over Rockdale in mid-March.
There were a lot of missed shots in this game and probably about 97 percent of them were Alcovy’s shots, which is a testament to their offense and defense. The Lady Tigers also probably had possession of the ball for about 90 percent of the time with half of the other 10 percent including the Lady Bulldogs chasing down balls that were inevitably headed for out of bounds.
Still, watching Rockdale play, you’d never know they were down by such a huge deficit. The Lady Bulldogs played about as hard as you can expect from any team, good or bad.
Alcovy was spectacular on offense, with a superb passing performance from the team.
“I think Sydney Ziglar, she could have had 10 goals. But she’s so good at looking out for her teammates and passing. She had several assists. She had two goals. She really hustled. I’m really proud of her tonight,” Anna Hebert, Alcovy head soccer coach, said.
“I still want us to do better on corners,” she added. “We took nine corners tonight, we only scored on one of them. It’s something we’ll practice. Set pieces should be a little more go-to for us. A little more steady.”
Ziglar was impressive as expected. If there was a word for a small, fast, supremely talented, passionate ball of energy 24/7 it’d be Sydney Ziglar. She’s already broken Alcovy’s record for most goals in a season with 20-plus goals and four games left in the season. Despite Ziglar’s performance, it was her team that helped her shine. Three Lady Tigers finished with two goals – Ziglar, Baylea Payne and Blakely Dimsdale (who Hebert said had her best game). Katie Barton and Destiny Hardy each scored once in the match.
Hebert wanted her team to come out and have a great performance to showcase the skill they have as the No. 2 seed in Region 2-AAAAAA, and they did.
Hebert said, “Normally as soon as the game’s over, we look ahead to the next game and we talk about that. We still have bigger things to focus on in the future.”