Saint penalty kick saves Senior Day

Published 11:13 pm Friday, October 21, 2011

Nansemond-Suffolk senior Stuart Gill shoots during the second half of Thursday’s Tidewater Conference match against Norfolk Collegiate. The Saints scored on a penalty kick late in the second half to get a 1-1 draw on their Senior Day. NSA (4-8-3, 1-5-2) plays in the quarterfinals of the Tidewater Conference Tournament on Tuesday.

Matt Atienza’s penalty kick goal with nine minutes left in regulation saved the Senior Day for himself and six Nansemond-Suffolk teammates, giving the Saints a 1-1 tie against visiting conference foe Norfolk Collegiate Thursday afternoon.

The draw kept the Saints one place ahead of the Oaks in the Tidewater Conference standings ahead of next week’s conference tournament. The 1-1 score through all 100 minutes of play kept the Saints from having to face top-seeded Cape Henry, with a perfect 8-0 record in its conference season, in Tuesday’s quarterfinals.

Norfolk Collegiate kept the ball for a majority of the match and outshot the Saints. NSA’s defense held out through the first half even though the Oaks repeatedly gained dangerous free kick opportunities in NSA’s end of the field.

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Atienza, NSA’s midfield leader throughout the last three seasons, along with goalkeeper Zach Edwards, defenders Travis Brothers and Stuart Gill, midfielder Matt Lee and forwards Daniel Fisher and Zach Taves were recognized during halftime of their last home game.

Seven seniors makes up a large portion of the Saint varsity roster. Taves, a top scorer for the Saints going back to his freshman year, has missed much of this season to injury.

NSA turned much of the action around after the half. Atienza and Preston Firnstahl had volleyed shots that banged off posts and out in the first 15 minutes.

The Oaks turned a sharp cross in from the left sideline into a Saint own goal and a 1-0 Oak lead with just over 20 minutes to play.

The Saints had a number of scoring chances to threaten the Oak goal more than the play leading to the whistle for their penalty kick.

Firnstahl and Atienza moved the ball through midfield with Firnstahl chipping a ball toward the box into the path of Greg Beale’s run.

Beale, a tall sophomore who switches between defender and forward, got his head to the ball deflecting it barely past an Oak defender, who then tackled Beale, not hard by any means, but from behind for the foul.

From the penalty spot, Atienza struck a right-footed shot inside the base of the left post.

Both sides came close to a decisive goal in the 20 minutes of overtime.

Nansemond-Suffolk (3-8-4, 1-5-2) still has a big test ahead in the first round of the conference tournament. NSA goes to No. 2 Norfolk Academy Tuesday at 4 p.m. The Bulldogs beat the Saints 5-0 on Tuesday.