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INDEPENDENCE –– If ever a soccer team needed to burn a timeout to break the momentum of an opponent’s run, it was Galax late in the first half Thursday against Grayson County.
Of course in soccer there is no such thing as a timeout, so Maroon Tide coach Troy Barkley just left it up to his seniors.
Having seen a two-goal lead disappear in the span of four minutes, Galax regrouped and scored twice in the final three minutes of the first half and went on to a 5-2 win over the Blue Devils at Bill Strong Field.
“It’s been like that all year,” said Barkley, whose team won its 13th straight match against no losses. “I credit it to senior leadership. We have nine seniors and they’ve been through this before, and I don’t have to say a whole lot to get them going. The seniors on the field usually take care of it.”
The Maroon Tide had carpet-bombed the Grayson County goal for most of the first half, but a pair of saves by Blue Devil keeper Jack Circle, plus at least a half-dozen shots that clanged off the goal frame, left Galax with a 2-0 lead halfway through the first period.
Andres Medina’s centering pass was headed in by Edgar Guzman just four minutes into the match. Galax came up empty on three scoring opportunities before a free ball near the 18 was converged upon by Guzman, Circle and two Grayson defenders. Guzman won the race to the ball, tapped past Circle and drilled his shot into the open net in the 13th minute for a 2-0 lead.
For a team that had allowed one or fewer goals in its first 11 matches, the lead seemed safe enough, but a pair of precision strikes by Mario Ruiz had the Blue Devils even less than 10 minutes later. A throw-in by Adam Wyatt deep in the Galax zone served as a de facto corner kick, and Ruiz redirected into the net for the Blue Devils’ first goal with 17 minutes left in the half.
Four minutes later, Ruiz boomed a direct kick from about 35 yards out, placing the shot just under the crossbar and just over the mitts of Tide keeper Mesiel Solis in the 37th minute.
“There for a second I thought we were going to come back on them and control the game,” Grayson coach Brad Mawyer said. “I’ve got some characters on this team that can do it and play that caliber.”
“Where we’re having trouble with now is injuries,” Barkley said. “We keep having to sub people in on defense and so much of our defense is communication and rotation and talking to each other, and we’re putting so many different people in there we lose the chemistry. So many goals we’ve given up this year have been a communication issue.”
For the next 10 minutes it looked like the two teams would go to the half deadlocked, but Galax put two shots in the net in the final three minutes of the first half to regain command. Taking a Javier Sanchez pass on the left side, Andres Medina worked to the middle and sent a low shot just inside the left post three minutes before the half. Two minutes later, Guzman centered to Junior Espinosa, whose header gave Circle no chance at a stop, and the Tide was back up by two goals.
“I have to give Galax the credit,” Mawyer said. “We both have some high caliber players but they have a lot more depth with it. I think they just wore us down with their passing game, and they came back and put it to us.”
Galax peppered Grayson with 14 shots in the first half, but other than the four scores, only two other shots were on goal. That changed in the second half, as the Tide sent 10 shots inside the frame, but Circle was there to stop nine of them. Guzman scored off a rebound in the 57th minute for the only goal after halftime.
Galax’s defense, anchored by Dominic DiGiacomo, Mario Carranza, Felix Medina and Isaac Jordan, limited Grayson to six total shots, three of them on goal.
Galax 5, Grayson County 2
Halftime – Galax 4, Grayson Co. 2. Scoring: Gx – Guzman 4’ (A.Medina); Gx – Guzman 13’ (unassisted); GC – Ruiz 23’ (Wyatt); GC – Ruiz 27’ (unassisted); Gx – A.Medina 37’ (Sanchez); Gx – Espinosa 39’ (Guzman); Gx – Guzman 44’ (unassisted).
Shots (on goal) 31(16) 6(3)
Fouls 7 6
Corner kicks 8 0
Offsides 7 0
Yellow cards 2 0
Red cards 0 0
Saves 1 11
Yellow cards – A.Medina, Espinosa (Gx).
Saves – Solis (Gx) 1, Circle (GC) 11.