By Jeremy Balan
Behind a dominating second-half performance from its back line and a goal from Sebastian Sandoval, Stuart Hall opened it’s Bay Counties League West season with a 1-0 win over Lick-Wilmerding on Wednesday at Treasure Island.
After a relatively slow first half for both sides, Sandoval struck in the 52nd minute on a volley off a cross from Kovi Vordzorgbe that got tipped by a Lick defender that put the Tigers (6-2, 0-1) just off-balance enough.
“There were a couple of deflections in there,” said Stuart Hall head coach Antonio Villegas. “We got a lucky bounce and it was a good thing that Sebastian stayed focused and put the ball in.”
While Sandoval’s goal was the difference, the Stuart Hall back line of Grant Kawahatsu, Sterling Kirk, Tal Quetone and Alibrando Petrini held off the Lick attack throughout.
“Our defense last year and in the preseason this year has been strong,” said Kirk, an all-league selection as a freshman last season. “We try to get a shut out or [allow] one goal and give our offense a chance.”
The Knights (3-1-1, 1-0) didn’t allow a shot on goal in the second half and focused more players on the defensive half of the field after Sandoval’s goal.
“They had a lot more speed at the back than I thought they would,” said Lick assistant coach Jared Green. “We had a couple of times where I thought guys were through and their guys closed really nice. Their back line is really solid and you can tell they’ve played together.”
Even though the Knights’ back line was effective, Lick had multiple opportunities to even the score late in the game, including two free kicks from just outside the penalty box.
When the Tigers did get into scoring positions, however, often they looked out of sync.
“We had our chances,” Green said. “We just couldn’t seem to get the ball on net. We’re a sort of a finesse team up front. We try to get clean looks inside the box because we don’t have a whole lot of guys who are bombing from the outside.”
Both coaches acknowledged that the game was evenly matched, but as soccer often shows, single moments can be deciding factors.
“They finished one of the few chances that they had and we didn’t,” Green said.