Clinton’s varsity soccer team hosted 4-A powerhouse New Hanover on Thursday night looking to bounce back after a disappointing loss to North Brunswick on Tuesday. The Wildcats, ranked second in the state in the 4-A ranks and ninth in the nation by MaxPreps, came into the match with a gaudy 6-0 record and looked to make quick work of the reeling Dark Horses.
Clinton had other plans, playing arguably their best soccer of the season and shutting down a Wildcat offense that had averaged three goals per game against good competition. The Dark Horses came away with the 1-0 win.
“I knew coming in we would have to play our best soccer and the guys didn’t back down against a very good soccer team. I’m just really proud of the way our guys responded after a devastating loss on Tuesday, in a match that we felt like we had and let get away from us,” Clinton head coach Brad Spell attested after the match.
Spell had a lot to be proud of — his team played the highly-ranked Wildcats to a 0-0 tie in the first half. The Clinton defense played big all night, allowing only three shots on goal and for the most part denying the New Hanover offense to get within striking distance.
“I think we are beginning to get a little bit better idea of the system we need to run. We went to a 4-5-1 tonight and it did well against a real quality team. We kept our shape and controlled the midfield much better tonight and that was key to our success,” added Spell.
The Dark Horses broke the scoreless tie in the 51st minute when Ivan Palencia broke free to score an unassisted goal, giving the Dark Horses all the offense they would need to take the win. The game was stopped due to lightning in the area in the 65th minute with Clinton clinging to the 1-0 advantage. After a 30-minute delay, the teams returned to the field and any fears about the home team letting down were quickly squashed.
The Horses finished the final 15 minutes as strong as they started, turning back every New Hanover threat to hold on to their impressive 1-0 shutout for the win.
After the match, Spell continued to reflect on his team’s performance, saying “I am proud of all 24 team members, the guys kept their shape and moved the ball well. The guys on the bench stayed engaged and supported their team all night, playing an important role in the win.”
The win improves Clinton’s record to 3-1-1 on the season. The Dark Horses will return to action on Wednesday when they travel to Richlands, with kickoff set for 6:30 p.m.
The Clinton junior varsity team improved their record to 5-0 with a 5-0 win over the Wildcats.