It took the Stone Bridge High boys’ soccer team less than 30 seconds to set the tone in its 3-0 Liberty District win over Marshall on April 3 in Ashburn.
In a contest played in a constant, steady rainfall and on a soak and wet, muddy field, Stone Bridge got the early upper hand when it gained the first possession of the game and immediately took the ball down the field and scored.
The goal came on a scorching, 20-yard shot high into the right side of the net by senior midfielder Nick Giffen to give the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead just 15 seconds into the match.
"It kind of deflates you a little bit and takes you 10 minutes just to get back into the game," said Marshall coach Ricardo Silva, of the immediate score. "After the first five minutes, I told the guys we have to get the ball out of the danger zone, and we didn’t do that."
On a night in which the poor playing conditions made it difficult to possess and pass the ball without footing difficulties, the quick Stone Bridge goal put the Statesmen in an immediate hole they never could get out of.
"[An early goal] always sets the tone," said Stone Bridge coach Randy May, whose team improved to 5-0 with the win.
The Bulldogs have scored early goals in three of its wins this season.
"That’s the way you hope to start a game, real quick," said Stone Bridge senior co-captain Eric Skogerboe, a senior midfielder. "We don’t want to start slow."
<b>MARSHALL</b>, trailing 1-0, nearly got the equalizer 14 minutes into the game when senior Jorge Romero sent a hard, 25-yard crossing shot towards the net. The ball was barely wide, however.
Romero, a versatile defensive player, got off strong scoring attempts on two other occasions a few minutes later. The first came off a short breakaway try off the right side, and the latter on a straight on shot that sailed over the goal.
Ultimately, it was the host Stone Bridge team that landed the game’s second score of the night when sophomore forward Mike Herndon sent a sizzling grounder into the net from straight-on range. The goal, which came from about 15 yards out, made it 2-0 Bulldogs with nine minutes, 14 seconds remaining in the half.
Over the remainder of the half, Stone Bridge had two shot attempts that hit the cross bar but did not find the net. The first such try occurred when senior midfielder Fredyz Hernandez, upon gaining possession of the ball in the scoring circle, made a quick turn-and-pass to his left. Teammate Ronnie Shaban, a senior, received the short pass and took a quick, close range shot that bounded off the cross bar.
The second chance came when Skogerboe nearly headed a ball from close range into the net. The scoring try was set up by a long, free kick boot by a teammate from midfield. Like Shaban’s chance, Skogerboe’s shot went off the cross bar.
Stone Bridge led 2-0 lead at the half.
Then, almost 12 minutes into the second half, the Bulldogs effectively put the game away by netting the night’s final goal. The score came on a header from just in front of the net by Shaban, who celebrated the score with an emotionally charged belly slide in the mud. The goal was set up by Giffen’s well-placed corner shot.
Marshall’s best scoring chance in the second half came with just under 10 minutes left when, during a hard rush to the net, Stalteri Guiseppe, a junior stopper, took a hard shot that was blocked. Teammate Greg Goldbach, a senior, then picked up the loose ball and took a shot on goal that was stopped by goalie Matt Miscione.
<b>AFTER THE GAME</b>, Skogerboe said it was a blast playing in the rain.
"That’s soccer, right there," he said. "I love it, we all love it."
Marshall, with the loss, slipped to 3-2-1 on the young season. The Statesmen’s’ first loss had come at the hands of Herndon, one of the Northern Region’s top teams this spring.
"I think Stone Bridge is just as good as Herndon," said Silva, the Marshall coach. "They come right at you."
May, the Stone Bridge coach, credited Marshall with handling the ball well in the sloppy conditions.
"Marshall, I felt, did a little bit in their possession game," said May. "Marshall is a well coached team. I think Marshall will cause some teams problems."
May was particularly impressed with the play of Marshall players Romero and Goldbach.
Stone Bridge was recently ranked among the metropolitan area’s top 10 teams, the first time the Bulldogs have ever achieved such a status.
"This is our first season being this high ranked," said Skogerboe. "We’ve been working real hard to get to that position."
"It’s the best start in the history of our program," added May.
But the coach, who has seen his team win three of its games by shutout (Marshall, Fairfax and Centreville) has made sure his players don’t get too caught up in their fast start. There is still plenty of season to go.
"I’ve already gotten on them a little bit about not reading their press clippings," said the coach, with a smile.