Salisbury 5 — Gunston 3
CENTREVILLE — A 3-0 halftime deficit would be enough for some coaches to go ballistic, maybe rip their team’s performance during intermission.
But Juan Angarita, head coach for The Gunston School’s boys’ soccer team, didn’t go into a rant Friday afternoon. Instead, Angarita calmly told his team what it was doing wrong and what needed correcting. Assistant Cam Angarita, speaking in a similar even tone, then told the spread of players seated on the grass before him they had to start putting the ball on goal, and needed to score twice within the first 10 minutes of the second half.
The Herons responded, as sophomore Mekonnen Sahle-Selassie scored in the 8th and 17th minutes of the second half to pull the home team within one. But Gunston wouldn’t get any closer, as Salisbury School’s Kaleb Hearn arced a well-placed header over Herons keeper Aaron Sanderson’s head a little over a minute later, helping the Dragons regain momentum en route to a 5-3 victory.
Gunston slipped to 1-2 in the Eastern Shore Independent Athletic Conference, but has a chance to square its record Monday against Salisbury Christian (1-1) and stay in contention for a spot in the ESIAC championship. Worcester Prep (3-0) leads the ESIAC, followed by Salisbury School (1-1) and Holly Grove (1-2).
“We took some time to adjust to their strategy, which is pretty much send the ball into the 18-(yard) box and then find the ball inside the box,” Juan Angarita said. “So it took us some time to figure out and adjust to the strategy of the other team.”
Goals from Joshua Pollack in the 23rd and 33rd minute of the first half gave Salisbury School a 2-0 lead. That lead was extended to 3-0 with 1:35 left in the half, when Carter Robinson tucked a penalty shot inside the right post past a lunging Sanderson.
But Dragons head coach Casey Bellamy warned his team about complacency in the second half, remembering how Salisbury had rallied for a 4-3 victory over Gunston a year ago after trailing 3-0 at halftime.
“Looking at the opposite side of things last year, we were down 3-0 at halftime,” Bellamy said. “So we knew if we could come back from 3-0 and come back against them — they’re always well coached — they could definitely come back against us.”
The Herons were moving in that direction.
Sahle-Selassie scored 7:34 into the second half.
Pollack just missed completing a hat trick when he banged a shot off the right post a little over 8 minutes later.
Gunston didn’t fit a second goal into the 10-minute window Cam Angarita had pleaded for at halftime, but with 23 minutes showing on the scoreboard, Sahle-Selassie scored off Jude Smith’s corner kick, drawing the Herons within 3-2.
“We readjusted the strategy and we got control of the midfield,” Juan Angarita said. “We won the second half (3-2). The other team kept playing the same strategy and we made a mistake. The same strategy, ball inside the 18 box and there was confusion there. Just a mistake.”
That mistake came 1:08 after Sahle-Selassie’s second goal. The Dragons worked the ball back into the box, where Luke Dunne dished to Hearn, who was unmarked directly in front of the net and softly tapped a header over Sanderson from about 12 yards out for a 4-2 Salisbury lead.
“Huge,” Bellamy said of Hearn’s goal. “Soccer’s a big game of momentum, and Gunston definitely had the momentum in that scenario. So to have Kaleb Hearn come out, have that ball in from Luke Dunne, and him put it away early, it kind of deflates some of sails there. So having that opportunity was huge because it was definitely trending toward Gunston.”
Both teams continued generating scoring opportunities.
Hearn sent a cross that skidded in front of the goal mouth with 13:15 remaining. Smith unloaded a well-struck, left-footed drive on net less than 2 minutes later that Salisbury keeper Kaden Fontaine smothered. Sanderson kept in a two-goal deficit when he foiled Dunne’s scoring bid with 7 minutes left.
Then with 5:35 remaining on the clock, Pollack steered a corner kick toward that front of the net that Dunne got his head and shoulder on for a goal that restored Salisbury’s three-goal cushion at 5-2.
Gunston got within 5-3 a little over 90 seconds later, when Thomas Umidi scored off another Smith corner kick for the Herons final goal.
“Anytime you see five goals in the back of the net you’re going to be pretty content with your team,” Bellamy said. “Obviously you want your team to be successful defensively as well. I think we had really bright moments. But allowing three goals definitely some things we need to work on this week.”