|Last season, the Riverdale High School boys soccer team made school history by making the semi-finals of the state tournament for the first time, and the Warriors are hoping for more in 2013.
So far, so good for the squad, which improved to 2-0 on the young season after a 3-nil win over Dickson County Thursday night at Tomahawk Field on the RHS campus. The win was a measure of payback since the Cougars were one of the few teams, which knocked off the Warriors last March, 3-2.
“I think any team feels that way,” RHS senior defender Todd Huber said. “Whoever you lost to last season, you got to keep that fire in you. You got to have a short memory, but then you got to keep it in your mind to help you get up for that game.”
The 2013 match up between the schools looked like for the first 71 minutes of the match it was going to be a hard fought 0-0 tie as the poor weather conditions played a factor. Several times during the match, heavy rain showers hit the pitch and players on both sides sometimes had trouble handling the wet ball.
In the 71st minute of the game, DCHS was called for a foul on the Warriors attacking end of the field, and RHS received a free kick from 32 yards out.
Huber, who also is the placekicker for the football team, crushed the ball past the Cougar goalkeeper on the near post to give the Warriors a 1-nil lead.
“It was a lot of luck,” Huber said after the match. “Being a kicker on the football team helps me get the soccer ball up in the air and it went over the wall into the net.”
Long time RHS head coach Ali Arman, who has taken the Warriors to the TSSAA state tournament during the past three seasons, preaches conditioning especially late in matches. Thursday night was no different as the Warriors were getting more energy toward the end of the match, while their opponents slowed down at the end.
“We worked really hard in the preseason on conditioning, and the guys come out in January and February, when it does not feel good outside,” Arman said. “Give credit to them, they have come out and give me the opportunity to run them real hard. We like to see it pay off during the season.”
The Warriors used their fitness to their advantage as it added two more goals in the last nine minutes of the match. Junior Troy Gravatt and senior forward Dylan Higgins also scored to help the Warriors pull away for the 3-nil victory.
The Warrior defense kept the Cougars scoreless that in part to a new starting back four of defenders, including junior Will Furones, freshman Nick Westerdale, sophomore Kyle Bennett and Huber.
“We did a lot of defense during the preseason since we lost our starting defense and goalkeeper from last season,” Arman said. “Credit to them, they have come out and worked hard. Those guys back there have paid attention and worked hard during training and they have taken that into the game.”
Also, sophomore goalkeeper Kirkland Manglogiannis finished with a clear sheet, which in the soccer term for achieving a shutout. He made several incredible saves to keep the Warriors in the match.
“I love my defense, we are meshing well as a family right now,” Huber said. “We are all playing well, but it not only the back four but also the entire team.”
Manglogiannis added, “It makes the whole team feel good, when I can keep the ball out of the net. The defense has got to stick together and keep everybody's head up.”
Arman is pleased with the way RHS has started the season outscoring its first two opponents, 6-nil, however it's got two more huge matches against Brentwood and BGA before heading into tough District 7AAA play on March 26 against hated rival Blackman. He knows it will be another challenge to compete for another district title this season, because of all of the tough competition inside Rutherford County.
“We have to stay organized defensively as a team,” Arman said. “We can not give up soft goals, its a crusher and we have to take advantage of our opportunities. I felt tonight we played great futbol and we took advantage of our chances.”
At the same time, the upcoming district play is the further thing on the Warriors mind as they are currently just worried about next week's two huge matches against two of the top soccer programs in the state.
“We have a long way to go with 12 matches left in the season,” Arman said. “Good start, but we have to keep getting better and not rest on our laurels. We have to stay humble and hungry and if we do that we will be fine.”
It's next opponent will be a chance for payback against Brentwood, who defeated RHS 3-1 in the TSSAA Spring Fling semifinals last May. The teams will meet again on March 19 at Tomahawk Field at 7 p.m.