ST. PAULS — The 3-2 loss at home on Wednesday for the St. Pauls boys soccer team against East Bladen marked a point of improvement for the senior-heavy Bulldogs.
After two lopsided losses last season to the Eagles, who won the Three Rivers Conference championship, St. Pauls (3-1, 0-1 TRC) had chances to show East Bladen’s (5-0-1, 1-0 TRC) vulnerability.
“I told them that I wasn’t going to knock them for anything,” St. Pauls coach Brent Martin said. “Last season we played them 7-1, 7-0.”
“From where we have come to what we have achieved this year, I think we did very well tonight… We don’t think that they are unbeatable by any means. I think we showed tonight that we can be touched, and I’m going to do the best I can to do it.”
Going into the half in a scoreless tie, East Bladen came out with a goal four minutes into the second half on an Ishmael Arteaga goal after a shot ricocheted off St. Pauls goalkeeper Oscar Ordonez. From there, the Eagles tacked on goals in the 56th minute from Jay McGill and in the 58th minute from Greyson Heustess to go up 3-0.
“I don’t think we gave up World-class goals,” Martin said. “I did see them save several.”
Then the moment that got the offense for St. Pauls going happened.
On a free kick on the left side of the field beside the 18-yard box, Bruno Ayala served a ball that Lalo Velasquez headed into the back post to start the scoring for the Bulldogs.
“From that moment, it broke their resolve a little bit and it encouraged my guys that we could score goals,” Martin said.
With the offense finding more opportunities to attack, the Bulldogs had near misses on goals, but were able to chip another goal in on a Sergio Sanchez corner kick with more than five minutes left. Despite other chances late, St. Pauls couldn’t post the tying goal.
Ordonez had seven saves in the match for St. Pauls.
St. Pauls hosts East Columbus on Monday, and won’t get another crack at the defending conference champions until Oct. 3.
“It will be very tough going to East Bladen to play, but we are not afraid of the challenge,” Martin said.
Red Springs takes win on the road
LAKE WACCAMAW — The Red Springs boys soccer team opened up Three Rivers Conference play with a 5-2 road win at East Columbus.
Rafa Valencia had a goal and two assists, while Daniel Rojas, Diego Lazaro, Steve Ruiz and Kevin Hernandez each added a goal.
Issac Avila had three saves in goal.
Lumberton wins, Purnell Swett falls in SAC action
LUMBERTON — Behind a hat trick from senior C.J. Nemeroff, the Lumberton boys soccer team defeated Seventy-First at home 6-1.
Nate Cribb had his second straight two-goal performance and Dylan Bruce added the other goal. Nemeroff and Josh Britt also assisted on two goals.
Purnell Swett took defending conference champion Pinecrest down to the wire at home before a 78th-minute goal from Jair Ballesteros lifted the Patriots.
Lady Rams pick up tennis win
RAEFORD — The Purnell Swett girls tennis team earned a 6-1 road win over Hoke on Wednesday.
Malina Cummings, Tierra Locklear, Harlie Scott, Elysha Strickland and Mya Sampson picked up singles win for the Lady Rams, while Cummings and Locklear won in doubles.
In other Purnell Swett action, the volleyball team lost in three sets at South View.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.