Three-goal win books Southside first trip to third round of playoffs

Published 6:18 pm Wednesday, November 7, 2018

CHOCOWINITY — The milestones for the Southside soccer program keep on mounting in 2018. Forward Luke Matthews already broke the school’s record for goals scored in a single game and in a season, and the Seahawks closed the regular season by winning consecutive conference titles for the first time ever. Now, Southside will make its first ever trip to the third round of the playoffs, after defeating Camden County, 3-0, last night.

Southside (19-1, 8-0 1A Coastal Plains Conference) head coach Jay Petty said he was pleased with the end result but felt his team’s timing and touch on the ball were off after having a first round bye as the No. 6 seed in the east bracket of the playoffs.

“We were a little slow and sluggish in the first half, and that’s probably just because we haven’t played in two weeks,” Petty said. “It was a good test for us tonight. Camden came out and played a really good ball game. They put some pressure on us, really dominated the midfield. I was worried about that for a little bit, but we did come alive in the second half and really kind of started controlling things. I felt like even though they kept pressure on us defensively, we were more in control of the game in the second half than they were.”

Despite not playing up to par against No. 11 Camden County (12-9-4, 6-6 1A Albemarle Conference), the Seahawks struck first, just two minutes into the game thanks to a proven weapon from the regular season. Southside midfielder Johnathan Hernandez’s throw-ins have been a source of offense this season and Tuesday was no different.

With a throw-in on the right sideline, roughly 10 yards from the end line, Hernandez heaved the ball into the Bruins’ box, and a Camden County defender jumped up to head it away, but instead deflected the ball past his goalkeeper and into the net.

ALL EYES ON LUKE: Luke Matthews jockeys for position with a Bruin defender. Southside’s leading goal-scorer couldn’t find the back of the net on Tuesday, but the attention Camden County’s defenders paid to him created openings for his fellow Seahawks. (Sean Finnerty | Daily News)

The Seahawks created several chances to score during the first half, but Matthews, Jairo Juarez and Carl Branch all either placed their shots too close to the Camden goalie or missed the target all together.

Southside looked set to head into halftime with a one-goal advantage, but instead doubled its lead two minutes before the whistle. Camden County cleared the ball from a Seahawk set piece, but it fell to Santiago Lengyel Serralde at the edge of the 18, who smashed a left-footed half volley through the crowded box and past the diving Bruin goalkeeper.

Petty said grabbing goals right at the beginning of the game and shortly before the end of the half was invaluable for his team.

“I tell the boys, ‘The first five minutes of the game matter,’ and if you can make a difference in the first five minutes, and that first goal was scored in the first five minutes, it sets a tone,” Petty said. “And then to have the second one right before halftime, it just kind of, I don’t want to say put the nail in the coffin, but you go into halftime at 2-0, you can kind of sit in the driver’s seat now. You don’t feel the pressure, they feel the pressure and they have to come out and do something.”

Playing with a comfortable lead in the second half of the game, Southside didn’t press forward as much. That allowed the Bruins to enjoy more possession of the ball compared to the opening 40 minutes, but the Seahawk backline made sure there was never much of a scoring threat.

As Camden pushed forward in search of goals, Southside took advantage and scored on a counter attack with six minutes remaining. Record goal-scorer Matthews dribbled down the right flank, attracting the attention of the Bruin defenders, before sending a cross into the box. As Matthews preoccupied Camden, Jaime Guzman ghosted into the box to get onto the end of the cross for a first-time finish.

Petty and the Seahawks are looking forward to experiencing the new frontier that is the third round of the playoffs, especially after early exits after first-round byes the last two seasons.

“I’m glad we’re finally getting to the third round. Two years in a row of being knocked out in the second round has not been fun,” Petty said. “This will be a good challenge.”