Saints fall to 0-8 in soccer

Published 10:23 pm Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Nansemond-Suffolk junior keeper Thomas King attempts to block visiting Norfolk Christian's third penalty kick of the game during the Saints' 7-0 loss on Tuesday. (Titus Mohler)

The Nansemond-Suffolk varsity boys soccer team continued a difficult season with a 7-0 loss to Norfolk Christian at NSA on Tuesday.

“It’s definitely a rebuilding season,” team captain and senior Steven Dvorak said.

The Saints (0-8, 0-2) found themselves behind quickly, trailing 3-0 about halfway through the first half.

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“It was rough going into it,” NSA head coach Richard Starkey said. “Playing young guys against more skilled players and then finally trying to figure out all our lineup still. With the rebuilding year, it’s pretty rough.”

Things did not get much better from there, when the Saints committed a penalty in the goal box prompting a penalty kick that the Ambassadors’ kicker slotted neatly into the far left side of the goal.

More penalty kicks in the second half — one due to a blatant handball — gave the Ambassadors a total of three goals off of three kicks.

“That’s more than I’ve had in a season,” Starkey said. “Some of it was defense just going too aggressive, which I can’t fault aggressiveness, but then little things like the handball in the box are things we’re going to work on.”

The Ambassadors had 22 shots on goal, six corner kicks, and three saves. NSA had seven saves and junior keeper Thomas King performed admirably, but faced a stiff challenge with the ball at his end of the field much of the time.

A marked difference was apparent in the second half, when the Saints were at least able to challenge Norfolk Christian’s defense and keeper with greater frequency.

“I think we started making a show of ourselves in the last 15 minutes,” Dvorak said. “Wish we had played like that more often.”

Fellow team captain and senior Nick Reid was quick to indicate what he thought helped make the difference.

“Swapping out Steven (Dvorak) from stopper, putting him up top to get that ball moving,” he said. “We played more to the feet, the balls were crisper.”

The Saints ended up with six shots on goal.

“We’ve got young players,” Starkey said. “We only have three seniors now, there’s four players who played last year who aren’t here this year.”

This year’s team is not without its standouts, though.

“Go-to players have been (striker) Matt Ruland, (sweeper/stopper/center-mid) Steven Dvorak by far, and (sweeper) Nick Reid,” Starkey said.

Ruland and fellow freshman Will Abruzzesse appear pint-sized on the field next to their teammates and the competition, but they have made valuable contributions and factor into what Starkey is trying to do with the team as it moves forward.

“We’re still building defense on up,” Starkey said. “Start with the defense, then build up to the forwards, everything. Once these little guys get older and get a little size on them, I can do something with them up front, but it’s still trying to build that.”

Both Starkey and Reid identified a recent game against Trinity Episcopal as a positive moment for the team, even though it was a loss.

“We lost 0-2,” Starkey said, “but we played 27 minutes without a goal on us, and then we played a whole second half without, ’til about the last five minutes. So, we played a good game.”

Dvorak acknowledged the team’s needed development, but expressed his goal as a senior to help it thrive even after he’s gone.

“We’ve got a really young team,” he said, “and we’re just hoping to set the foundation for a good program the next couple years.”

Reid touched on what it will take to build that foundation.

“People need to give a 110 percent and prove that we want to win,” he said. “You can have the most skilled team out here, but you got to put forth the effort. It’s all about effort.”

“We’re playing a lot tougher competition now,” Starkey said, “but as long as we play hard, this year I don’t care about the score, as long as my boys played hard and that’s what I’m trying to instill in them.”

The Saints travel to face Stonebridge on Friday.