MORGANTOWN — Looks, especially in soccer, can be deceiving.
A pair of boys soccer unbeatens battled Saturday, at Mylan Pharmaceutical Stadium, yet from the opening whistle, there was little doubt between University and Martinsburg as to which team possessed the superior skills, as the Hawks played with clinical precision in stretches in a convincing 5-0 victory.
However, that score does not reflect UHS coach Dustin Talton’s satisfaction with his 3-0 team’s overall performance. He’s challenging his talented, deep, experienced Hawks to play up a lofty standard this season — their own best game.
“We started very well, took the right approach, played hard, stayed organized, and allowed ourselves the chance to be creative,” he explained. “But then we dropped off significantly, and that shouldn’t be acceptable soccer for us.”
Indeed, Martinsburg (1-1-1) was tsunamied early by University’s ball pressure and creative connecting ability, surrendering a bevy of corners in the first stages of the match. The opening goal in the 9th minute was a beauty from last year’s WVSSAC Class AAA forward of the year, senior Joseph Biafora, who gathered a ball from 15 yards out off his chest, dribbled left, left, then right with the ball still in the air to separate from a defender, then rolled a low shot to the corner.
Ten relentless offensive pressure-filled minutes later, senior Mason Shockley earned a free kick from just outside the 18 at the left corner. After a brief discussion with Biafora, Shockley drilled a low shot to the far right post and in for a quick 2-0 UHS advantage.
“He told me it was too close to try to hit it over the wall,” he said, “so I kept it low, and when the keeper gave me a little room to the right, I just tried to go under the wall, and hit my spot.”
Up 2-0 halfway through the first half, that’s when the Hawks seemed to let up on the gas, cranking their coach’s blood pressure up steadily instead, and they heard about it at halftime.
“We made sure they knew that taking 20 minutes off of playing the right way is not what we want,” he smiled. “The next goal would make it a 2-1 game, and a difficult afternoon, or a 3-0 lead and allow us to relax a little. I gave the starters five minutes to pick their game up, start doing all the little things right, or they’d be sitting.”
That obviously did the trick, because the Hawks immediately began to win 50/50 balls, challenge every pass and possession, and turned the game into the comfortable win it should’ve been. Just four minutes in, Shockley shouldered possession away from a defender, raced forward into point-blank range, and calmly buried a shot to the near post. Six minutes later, junior Justin Parsons won a 50/50 challenge on the ground, quickly regained his feet, and stepped into a low right-footed shot from 35 yards out that eluded the Bulldogs keeper’s left arm and found the back of the net. The final tally came three minutes after, when Biafora served a perfect 25-yard cross onto fellow senior Cam Mitchell’s head, who lofted the ball into the vacated cage.
“We know we won’t be able to be as offensive minded when we play very good teams,” Shockley admitted, “and this next week will be a very difficult test. But we also know what our defensive shape has to be, and how to be patient offensively. We’re ready.”
After three wins by a combined score of 20-1, Talton is ready to see his team tested as well.
“It’s my responsibility to keep these guys from the perfectly natural tendency to feel like they can just push a button and make it happen,” he said. “That is a dangerous game to play, so we stress that they need to bring their level up and keep it up every minute of every match. The closer we get to doing that, the better prepared we’ll be when we get challenged — which we will.”
University will travel to Linsly on Wednesday.
George Washington 1
CHARLESTON — Anna Iquinto’s second-half goal broke a 1-1 halftime tie and proved to be the game-winner.
The goal was assisted by Sammie Brown.
Alyssa Weaver scored in the first half for the Mohigans (3-0).
MHS will host Parkersburg South, at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Tristen Bright scored two goals to lead the Hawks (3-0-1).
Bright scored in the 38th minute to break a scoreless tie off an assist from Ari Christiansen and placed a low shot into the far corner for the go-ahead score.
UHS goalkeeper Corinne Grabow recorded two saves.
The Hawks travel to Wheeling Park on Tuesday.