PREP SOCCER: Miners top Knights, net spot in playoffs
Nevada Union’s boys soccer team is playoff bound for the first time since 2013 after knocking off Rio Linda in thrilling fashion Thursday night at Hooper Stadium.
Facing the Knights in the Foothill Valley League season finale, the Miners rallied for two goals in the final 12 minutes of the contest to earn a 3-2 victory.
“They’re really getting comfortable with each other,” said NU head coach Chrys Dudek, whose team is heading into the playoffs with wins in their last two matches.
The Miners controlled the contest in the first half and took a 1-0 edge in the 34th minute when Jake Slade slotted the ball past the goalie and into the net.
Rio Linda took control in the second half with a breakaway goal in the 54th minute and an own goal by the Miners in the 57th minute.
Trailing 2-1, Nevada Union locked in and put the pressure on the Knights, resulting hand ball in the goalie box and a penalty kick for the Miners in the 68th minute.
Senior Josh Smith lined up the shot and powered it past the goalie to knot the game at 2-2.
“In my head I knew I needed to score. It was a crucial goal,” said Smith.
Five minutes later Smith notched his second goal of the game, out running his defender and sliding the ball past the goalie for a 3-2 Miners advantage.
“We dropped down our tempo a little bit, but after we got down we picked it right back up,” said Smith, who noted his team has played much better the past couple of weeks. “The difference has been our attitude. We’ve been better about fighting throughout the whole game, keeping it 100 the whole game.”
Smith has four goals in his last two matches and leads the Miners with 12 goals on the season.
NU’s defense held off a pressing Rio Linda squad down the stretch to close it out. NU’s senior goalie Steven Person finished with seven saves in the contest.
“In the first half we were pretty comfortable, we were moving the ball better than we have all season and they were feeling really good, had a nice flow going, we got that first goal and they started to get really comfortable,” said Dudek. “Then we got into the second half, maybe we were a little overconfident, and Rio started pushing and it paid off for them. They got a good shot on us and a lucky own goal, and we panicked a little bit, but we settled in, started to pass the ball more and then tied it up and felt more in control. And then Josh had that run.”
With Thursday’s win, the Miners (6-6-4, 3-5-2 FVL) grabbed the fourth and final automatic playoff bid allotted to the FVL. They are the No. 16 seed in the Sac-Joaquin Section’s Division 3 bracket and will host No. 17 Rosemont (5-14-1, 3-7 Sierra Valley Conference) at 6 p.m. Monday. The Wolverines finished fourth in the SVC. The winner of the contest hits the road to face No. 1 Galt (19-1-1, 10-0 SVC) on Tuesday.
“We got to go in with confidence,” Dudek said of his team’s approach to postseason play. “We’re going to play some tough teams, we need put some balls in the back of the net. Our defense is strong and we have Steven (Person) back there who can make a number of saves. So, I think if we’re confident with our offense and continue to move the ball like we did tonight, I think we’ll have a good shot.”
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, call 530-477-4232 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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