HRA rallies to tie Saints

Published 10:30 pm Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Nansemond-Suffolk defender Stuart Gill keeps the ball in play along the sideline in NSA’s match against Hampton Roads on Tuesday. HRA scored two goals in the last 15 minutes to make for a 3-3 draw with the Saints.

Nansemond-Suffolk’s soccer opponents this season are going to be tough enough as it is. In addition to all the foes around the state the Saints will face, head coach Art Truesdell has another, even less forgiving opponent to deal with — attrition.

Fatigue played a role in Tuesday’s home opening match for the Saints. NSA spent a good amount of time and energy attacking Hampton Roads and building a 3-1 lead heading into the final 15 minutes of the second half.

The Navigators rallied with two strikes in less than three minutes to force the Saints (1-1-1) to settle for a 3-3 draw.

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“Our ball movement, especially down each flank, the way we moved the ball down both sides with our outside backs coming into the attack, it was the best we’ve had in the last four years,” Truesdell said.

“I’m proud of my guys. They gave me everything a coach could ask,” Truesdell said. “When you get tired though, it’s not the legs that go, often your head goes first. We made two mistakes, once where we were not aggressive enough and once where we were too aggressive, and those were the two (HRA) goals.”

Sophomore Preston Firnstahl played a key role in all three Saint goals, from either a wide midfield or a forward position.

One of NSA’s first attacks paid off. Firnstahl attacked from the left wing and had time to look ahead and find senior forward Zach Taves cutting into the center of the Navigator box.

Taves took one nice touch to control Firnstahl’s pass and his next touch was a right-footed strike inside the base of the left post for a 1-0 Saint lead less than five minutes into play.

The nice attacking, from both flanks and the center of midfield, continued and NSA finished the half with a 15-4 shot advantage.

One quick counterattack by the Navigators, with one sharp pass from midfield to set up a quick shot before NSA goalie Zach Edwards could close on the ball, put HRA on the board in the 34th minute. The Navigator goal made for an unlucky, for the home side, 1-1 draw at the half.

The tie score only motivated the Saints to continue their attacking. Taves sent Firnstahl ahead down the right wing on a quick rush. Firnstahl chipped a ball, perhaps it was a shot or perhaps it was a cross, but either way it banked in off the left post and into the goal for a 2-1 NSA lead seven minutes after halftime.

Another fast display of ball movement turned into a Saint counterattack and goal two minutes later.

Firnstahl kept possession on a long run into the HRA box. He passed to the center of the box for Greg Beale. Beale turned to face goal and shoot low by the Navigator keeper for a 3-1 NSA lead.

The Navigator comeback came in the 66th and 68th minutes.

NSA finished with a 25-13 margin in shots.

The draw was naturally disappointing for the Saints and their coach. It represents a challenge the Saints will face all season, though.

“I’m asking a lot out of some of the guys to play all 80 minutes,” Truesdell said.

With one injury included, the Saints had 14 healthy players available against the Navigators. The roster forced the Saints to give up some games this past weekend.

The Saints have been a frequent guest at an early-season tournament at Virginia Episcopal but had to turn down the offer this season.

“We had to cancel. Playing three games in one day, it just wasn’t possible. We don’t have enough guys,” Truesdell said.