Triton’s varsity boys soccer team kept itself in the hunt for the NCHSAA 3-A state playoffs with a 2-1 win over visiting Tri-County Six 3-A Conference opponent Union Pines on Senior Night on Monday.
“We had to have it to stay alive,” said Triton coach Brian Foster. “They knew they had to have it. So, they were ready to go. They were ready to go from the jump. Senior Night, as I’ve said before, is the worst night to play a big game, an important game, because everybody’s emotional. You don’t get to warm up like you want to. They just turned it out.
“And we were the better team in the first half. I thought they were the better team in the second half, but we did whatever it took to keep them from scoring and that’s how we won. Everybody that stepped out on the field knew what they needed to do, but mostly they knew the effort they needed to give and that’s what they did, top to bottom. All of them.”
Junior Benny Villalvazo had one goal and one assist and senior Merced Mendez had one goal for the Hawks (7-2, 5-2 TCSC).
Foster also cited the play of senior goalkeeper Logan Pope as a major factor in the win.
“At the end of that second half, he saved us,” Foster said. “Learning how to punch the ball. Learning how to tap it over the bar. This kid’s a baseball player that wanted to play Triton soccer and that’s what he’s done. And he had to replace an All-Conference, All-World keeper from last year (Cristian Delcid) and he hasn’t let in a single goal this year that was his fault.”
Senior Landen Daugherty had the lone goal for the Vikings (5-4-1, 4-4).
Prior to the game, Triton honored 12 seniors: Logan Pope, Sam Capps, Carson Smith, David Mencia, Mario Purata Aguillon, Merced Mendez, Dustin Byrd, Nathan Hill, Scott Martinez, Kevin Vidal Sanchez, Joshua Martinez and Ricardo Lira.
After going through the midway point of the first half scoreless, Triton broke through for a goal when Villalvazo fed Mendez, who found the back of the net to give Triton a 1-0 lead with 11:56 left in the first half.
Triton scored again late in the first half when Villalvazo intercepted a clearing pass in the Vikings’ zone and sent a screamer past the keeper into the net for a 2-0 lead with 1:22 left in the half.
Just under a minute later, the Vikings got on the board when Daugherty scored on a free kick with :39.6 left in the half to cut the lead to 2-1.
The Vikings had multiple opportunities to equalize in the second half, but Pope and the rest of Triton’s defense kept them out of the net to hold on for the win.
“At the end, you saw guys running out trying anything just to block the ball,” Foster said. “Senior class. Won’t quit. Everybody going hard.”
Triton travels to conference and Harnett County rival Harnett Central (0-8, 0-7) to wrap up the regular season on Wednesday.
“I don’t want us to play Harnett Central soccer, I want us to play Triton soccer,” Foster said. “And if we do, we should be ok. We’ve proved that game in and game out.”