PREP SOCCER: Miners find stride, beat Zebras
Submitted to The Union
Just like sailors need their sea legs in order to sail, any sports team has got to find its stride to play well as a team.
Watching players learn to gel is much like learning to walk on the rocking deck of a boat. They must trust each other quickly if they want to stand a chance of winning. This process is even more challenging in high school sports because rather than playing together for years, athletes play together for a few short months, and every year the team roster changes as seniors graduate. This challenge is amplified in winter sports where illness and injury regularly take players out of the game. Teams must fight hard to rise above these obstacles.
Despite an early season that was plagued by heartbreak, Tuesday night proved the Miner boys have become a team. If struggle were the word that described the first half of their season, redemption is the word that has defined the second.
Since the mid-season mark, they have played better against every team they have faced. The score board hasn’t always reflected it, but this team plays with a lot of heart and determination. Case in point, the first time Nevada Union faced top-ranked Ponderosa High School, The Bruins scored eight goals. In the second faceoff, Ponderosa had home field advantage and NU was missing three key players, but Nevada Union held Pondo at four goals. Likewise, in the beginning of the season when NU faced Placer High School they barely held on to a tie, but NU won their second game against Placer 2-0.
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Tuesday night, NU could have been prepared to lose their rematch against Lincoln. After all, in January at their first meeting, the Miners played hard but still suffered a disappointing 3-1 loss. Furthermore, only 20 minutes into that game senior goalkeeper Steven Person dove head-first into the goalpost and had to be taken to the emergency room. So, if anyone was looking for redemption, it was Person.
Early in the game, it was clear this was a different team than Lincoln faced in January. Thanks to a penalty kick goal by senior Josh Smith, the Miners were up 1-0 in the beginning of the second half.
But, their lead was threatened when the ref called another penalty this time in the Miners’ goalbox. The Lincoln player lined up for the attempt. Sporting a fresh scar above his right eye from his first encounter with Lincoln, Person got on his toes and prepared to react. The kick went left. He dove for it, blasting the ball out of the goal as he sailed towards the ground. The Miner fans went wild. But Person’s job wasn’t done. A Lincoln player got the rebound and slammed the ball back towards the goal. Steven jumped up just in time to make a second save. The crowd erupted again.
Fueled by the morale boost of an elusive PK save, the Miners got the ball at midfield. Senior Jaden Butcher-Cummings switched the ball to Jake Slade on the right wing who made a beautiful cross, placing the ball at the feet of Smith who pounded it into the back of the net. A beautiful example of the teamwork these boys have learned from head coach Chrys Dudek.
The Miners, who boast 11 seniors, close the regular season with a home contest against Rio Linda at 7 p.m. Thursday. A win or tie against the Knights would clinch a playoff spot for Nevada Union.
Coaches and/or team representatives may submit game reports by email at email@example.com or by phone at 530-477-4232.
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