Boys Soccer: Neuqua Valley holds off Metea Valley in 2-1 thriller

Updated: September 20, 2012 9:05PM

Neuqua Valley’s Eduardo Cruz did some celebrating after scoring his second goal of the season in the first half Thursday against District 204 rival Metea Valley.

But at the end of the match he was breathing a sigh of relief as the host Wildcats hung on to win a 2-1 thriller in Naperville.

Metea Valley had several chances to tie the game, including a shot from point-blank range that Christopher Freeman sent over the crossbar with 20 seconds left.

“My goodness, my heart stopped towards that last one,” Cruz said. “It’s unfortunate that he missed, but I’m glad he did. That was a scary moment but our team stuck together to get that win.”

It was a tale of two halves between inexperienced teams on the rise. Both sides had won five of their last six games, but it was Neuqua Valley that dominated early on. Defender Jimmy Kotowski scored on the first shot of the game when he headed home a free kick from Xavier Ortiz and Cruz made it 2-0 with 9:28 left in the opening half when he slid across in front to volley a cross from Munashe Nyamunduru inside the right post.

“It was a great assist,” Cruz said. “Once I saw Munashe taking [his defender] on, I knew he was going to cross it, so I sprinted down the line hoping that he’ll get the ball in and he did. I just slid hoping that I’d get it on my foot and put a little flick on it. I did and it happened to go in.”

The Wildcats moved into a tie for first place with Lake Park in the Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division, but their effort in the first half was matched by Metea Valley’s performance in the second half.

The Mustangs (5-5-2, 1-3) outshot Neuqua 6-2 after intermission and applied all sorts of pressure. Sophomore Dakota Rowsey cut the gap to 2-1 with 27:02 to go when he tapped home a perfect cross from the hard-working Freeman, who despite his miss in the closing seconds gave the Wildcats (7-5, 4-0) fits with his dribbling and passing.

“I thought we were pretty organized until the last 20 seconds when it looked like all was for naught, but [Freeman’s shot] was a difficult chance,” Neuqua Valley coach Skip Begley said. “It wasn’t just a sitter; it was on his left foot coming across the goal. But they’ve got some nice players and they put the pressure on. I thought we handled it pretty well.”

For Metea Valley, which has recovered nicely from an 0-3-2 start, the result proved again why consistency matters.

“We’ve gotten the results but maybe not the consistency,” Metea Valley coach Josh Robinson said. “It happened again today. I thought we struggled really bad in the first half to get into it, [then] played maybe the best half of soccer in that second half. We just possessed the ball, played very well, just couldn’t finish. But I’m very proud of how they played.”

Robinson said the key to Neuqua’s two goals was the Wildcats wanted it more, and Cruz agreed.

“Right now we’re undefeated in the conference and every game we come out here, every 50/50 ball we’ve got to win no matter what [because] it could be a goal for us,” Cruz said. “We do want it. We want it so bad. Every game counts and we have got to go out there and play our hardest. Today we played great.”

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