Gallery by Heather Belcher
Clean sheets have been the order of business this year for the Beckley boys soccer team.
Thursday night when sectional rival Princeton came to town, the Flying Eagles made it shutout number six – and the fifth in a row – earning a 2-nil win over the Tigers.
“We looked good tonight. I am really happy with the overall performance,” Beckley head coach Steve Laraba said. “I mean, could we be better in the final third, yes, we definitely should have scored more chances. However, we are creating them and they are going to come. Any sectional game is going to be tough.”
While the home team was solid on the back line once again allowing no shots on goal, a good portion of Princeton’s offensive woes came from the aggressive Beckley attack.
“I thought that our press on goal kicks and goal keeper possessions were very good” Laraba said. “I thought our counter-press was excellent as well. The guys had a good, quick switch in the transition. We weren’t allowing them out easily.”
The first half was played to a scoreless tie, but by the numbers it was a minor miracle that the Tigers were still in the match.
In the first 40 minutes, Beckley had four shots on goal and 10 corners, but could not convert on the set pieces.
The Beckley frustration in the first half had much to do with the play of Princeton senior keeper Lucas Monaghan.
In one series, Monaghan stopped two straight point blank efforts followed by a Beckley cross that went wide of its mark.
“I have to give it up to my goalkeeper, he played a heck of a game. Lucas kept us in the game,” Princeton head coach Eric Burgess said. “Our defense was pretty good. Reece Rhodes and Nathan Blankenship played very well also. The pressure got to us. We have to learn to play out of it, but we will get better.”
The Princeton keeper ended the night with 10 saves between the posts.
With so many chances in the opening half, Beckley could have responded with anger and frustration. That was not the case for the Flying Eagles.
“It could be very easy for them to get down on themselves, but nobody is yelling at somebody for missing a chance,” Laraba said. “They move on and feel like they will get the next one. The overall attitude of the team is very positive and that helps.”
Positivity turned into a goal in the first minute of the second when Tyler Snyder scored on an assist from Tyler Radford.
Snyder gave the Flying Eagles some breathing room when he knocked home his second goal of the night in the 67th minutes off a corner kick from Ishmael Fayiah.
“Princeton came in with a game-plan and executed it well. Fortunately we had too much quality for them and Snyder (converted) two of his many chances,” Laraba said. “It was a good, strong physical game. These are the type of games that are fun and you get the atmosphere.”
A large portion of the Beckley pressure came from the number of players that the Flying Eagles could continually run on the pitch all night.
“Princeton was getting tired in the first half and we could see it. We should have had two (goals) in the last five minutes of the first half,” Laraba said. “That is one of our advantages. We can throw some numbers on there and not lose a lot when we do.”
Slowed by injuries and illness, Burgess knew his team came to Carter Family Field fighting an uphill battle.
“Every time we play (Beckley) they run in player after player and that is hard to play against,” Burgess said. “We have some injuries and sick players, but that is no excuse, when they can run players out like that it is difficult.”
Although his team spent the majority of the night defending, Burgess saw some positives from his team.
“I would have liked to have had a little more offense. Those are things we have to work on. We want to possess a little more, but I knew we wouldn’t out-possess (Beckley),” Burgess said. “There was a lot of effort and a lot of heart tonight. We have some things to work on, but we are trying to improve each game.
Beckley (5-1-2) is back in action Tuesday at Buckhannon-Upshur, while Princeton hosts the Buccaneers Saturday at 1 p.m.