Pam Pack downs North Lenoir in conference tiebreaker

Published 8:43 pm Thursday, October 26, 2017

VANCEBORO — Washington and North Lenoir met for the third time this season. The Hawks took the first game. The Pam Pack went on the road and won the second, forcing a tiebreaker for which would take the top seed in the 2-A Eastern Carolina Conference.

Despite missing on a bevy of early chances, Washington upended the Hawks, 2-0, to create a more favorable scenario for next week’s opening round of the state playoffs.

The Pam Pack got on the board in the late stages of the first half. Oscar Espinoza weaved a pass through the middle. It found the boot of Marcos Bolivar behind the North Lenoir defense, and he buried it past goalkeeper Zach Jenkins.

“I think it really lit the guys up,” Washington coach Jim Kozuch said. “It’s frustrating. We could have been up three goals in the first 10 minutes of the game, but we’re one shot away from being down. When you get that one goal, it gives you just a little bit of a cushion.

Washington added to its lead eight minutes into the second half. Tim Anglim ripped a volley top shelf on the far side. Jenkins did well to halt every scoring chance that followed. It kept the game within reach for the Hawks, but their sophomore-scoring trio couldn’t muster much as Washington owned the middle of the field.

“They controlled the midfield tonight. That’s the bottom line,” said North Lenoir coach Chris Evans. “I told them we still had 40 minutes to play. That’s a long time in soccer. We’re only down one. We get one good shot on goal and we’re back in it. We get another one and we’re back in control of the game.”

Washington’s Henry Jennings slides in against North Lenoir’s Arnoldo Munoz.

Instead, it was North Lenoir chasing the Pam Pack. Each squad knew what to expect from the other coming into the game. Washington, with the experience on the field and Kozuch’s coaching prowess, proved better prepared.

“They had seen us twice,” Evans said. “They kind of knew what we were about, as far as what we had up top.”

The win gives Washington plenty of confidence as it prepares for the postseason. It marks the 11th victory in a row. It had extra meaning for the Pam Pack’s defense. The Hawks put in five goals between the first two encounters.

Earning the clean sheet on Thursday is an indicator of the strides made by the back line.

“It’s important. We’ve given up a lot of silly goals this year,” Kozuch said. “To get the shutout means a lot. The guys worked hard. Only Cody Pinkham is a returner, so that’s three new guys. They’ve done well and gotten better.”

North Lenoir was playing its third game of the week. The Hawks had traveled to South Lenoir for a rivalry match on Monday, then hosted Kinston on Wednesday. They, too, will look forward to learning their playoff pairing on Monday.