Saints tie defending state champs

Published 8:44 pm Saturday, October 2, 2010

NSA battles Christchurch
Nansemond-Suffolk midfielder Tucker Firnstahl goes in for a tackle against a Christchurch player Friday at NSA. The Saints (3-6-2) drew 1-1 with Christchurch.

The half-empty part of Nansemond-Suffolk’s 1-1 draw against visiting Christchurch Friday afternoon was NSA held a 1-0 lead for most of the match.

The half-full part was the tie came against the defending state champions in VIS (Virginia Independent Schools) Division II.

“I’m happy and the boys are happy. This is a good result,” NSA head soccer coach Art Truesdell said.

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“(Christchurch) is a quality program. Sometimes you don’t like a tie, especially when you’re up 1-0 and then you sort of feel like you settled for a 1-1 tie, but this is a big result. It’s a big step,” Truesdell said.

Trailing by a goal, the visiting Seahorses poured the pressure on the Saints starting around the midway point of the second half. For the first hour or so of play though, the Saints gained and preserved a well-deserved lead.

NSA’s defenders and midfield held an equal amount of possession and mostly for that reason, held Christchurch to only a couple serious attacking chances in the first half.

The first came in the 26th minute when the Seahorses put an excellent cross into the NSA penalty area and the Seahorse forward skied a five-yard shot over the crossbar.

Less than a minute later, the Saints had an almost identical scoring chance and sophomore midfielder Matt Atienza buried it.

NSA put a string of passes together, winding up with Preston Firnstahl attacking down the left sideline. Firnstahl sent a bouncing cross toward the Seahorse six-yard box. Cutting toward the near post, Atienza met the ball well enough to score just inside the base of the post.

NSA’s 1-0 lead survived a couple close calls early in the second half.

NSA keeper Adam Florian scrambled to get a piece of, then quickly crawled to stop the ball from rolling over the goal line, on a Seahorse shot from the top of NSA’s six-yard box.

Two minutes later, NSA conceded a penalty kick. Florian made the save, stopping a low drive sent a bit to his right.

It was another Seahorse attack down a flank that came up with the tying goal with 12 minutes remaining. This time, Florian and the NSA defense was caught out of position by a cross and quick shot from very close range.

“(Christchurch) attacked and we had to hold on for the last few minutes, but we were composed and organized. I’m very proud of the boys,” Truesdell said.

“This should give us a lot of confidence going into next week,” Truesdell said.

The Saints (3-6-2, 0-1-0) have two major Tidewater Conference challenges, with both on the road, next week. NSA goes to Norfolk Academy Tuesday and to Cape Henry Thursday.