Holderness Day is a tradition here at the Academy. Every year we either pack up our teams to head over to Holderness or they all come here for an afternoon filled with competition. To add spice and drive to the rivalry, the Heads of School decide on a wager. This year they decided that the Head whose school won the most games would give up her school vest for a week so the losing Head could wear it. At All School Meeting on Thursday, our Interim Head Pam Clarke shared this information and made it clear that she was loath to have to do this. And so she beseeched us to have fun and play hard, but most importantly she left us with this charge: Win the damn games! It was with these words and our classmates’ support that we streamed down onto the lower playing fields for our matches.
Our boys had seen this Holderness JV2 team briefly once before when we played against them at Cardigan during the Round Robin Tournament. In the twenty minutes of play neither team was able to put a ball in the net and we ended with a draw. So as we warmed up on Power’s Field, we knew that the competition would be strong.
And as the first few minutes passed by, the ball moved back and forth over the center line but neither team could make headway into the other’s defensive zone. Then after four full minutes gone, Nick Wilder controled the ball and sent a pass up to Ollie Cozzi in the center who worked a give and go with (recently allowed off the DL) Cody Nguyen. They got inside the box, but a quick Holderness keeper was able to stop the ball from going in. A minute later Jack Lavalle took another shot on goal. This one was deflected out to Ollie who sent it to Cody, but this shot too was saved. Our front line was passing well: Trong Phan and Will Haynes worked out of the middle and in close. Will spun his way through three defenders at the top of the box before his shot was captured by the keeper. A few minutes later, Jonathan Li lifted a corner kick up to Trong and he slid it into Jack who was inside the penalty box, but the Bulls’ keeper was there at his feet to hug it close and keep it from from going in. Meanwhile when Holderness was able to get in close, the solid Wildcat defensive line of Nick, Kyle Young, Ben Weise, and Cam Barton were there to do their best to keep the attacks at a minimum. Cam had an exceptional day forcing the offensive drives out to the side and shutting down advances.
Despite their best efforts, occasionally Holderness was able to get in close enough to raise our blood pressure. At the fifteen-minute mark they redoubled their efforts and kept our defense busy. Their right striker got control at the top corner of the box and blasted a hard shot toward the top bar, which Max van Dijk, with outstretched hand, was able to deflect over the top. This was followed up two minutes later with another high shot. This time it hit the crossbar and bounced back into play; however, Max was there to get control. And again a few minutes on, the right midfielder shot from near the low corner, but Max saved again. Through these plays our defense was certainly doing its job of keeping the shots from getting in too close. It was amazing to see the styles of two of our defenders. Nick is quick, scrappy, relentless, and everywhere, while Kyle looks almost laid-back in his approach. Kyle times his attacks in a suave manner and either acts as a wall or casually steals the ball and sends it in a high loft half way down the field.
David Chuong was working with Trong and Yohan Do on the front line to get us on the board, but each of their attacks were unable to get past the keeper. Even after Keenan Thygesen was able to work his way past two defenders to send a well-timed pass up to Trong, our shot was shut down again. Cody tried his luck with first a corner kick and then a direct kick, but though his balls were well placed, the scrambling keeper was able to get his mitts on them.
It’s worth mentioning here that striker, Yohan Do, has incredible speed that seems to be generated by his unique, but effective, mode of running. He propels himself forward as if by means of a swimmer’s stroke. “Swim Yohan. Swim!” is often heard from his adoring crowd, cheering from the sideline and encouraging another burst of speed. It was with this cheer that we watched as Yohan swam speedily up to a pass from Jack. But even with this unique power, we were thwarted by the keeper.
As we inched closer to the half, Holderness brought it in close enough so that Max was forced to make a diving save. Then with five minutes left in the half, we earned a fluky hand-ball off what normally would have been an easy trap. Holderness earned a penalty kick. Despite Max’s best effort, Holderness placed a hard, crisp, ball to the post to put them on the board.
In the final minutes, Max earned one more diving save, Kyle displayed a well-timed sliding tackle on a potential one-on-one attack, and Liam McKewan blasted a shot that, unfortunately, went just over the top rail. Our offense had kept the pressure on, Max earned at least ten saves, and the passing within the midfield had continued to improve.
It was after our halftime talk that we learned the results of the day’s completions were 2-4: Holderness was ahead. There were three games still in progress and we were the only KUA team with a deficit score.
Although we were ready to come back from that unfortunate goal, we were met with some bad luck. With only five minutes expired on the second half, Tyger Gao, who had been playing a tough defense, somehow got hit in the face and his glasses broke forcing him to the sideline. Five minutes later, Ben Weise, our “old reliable” in the back field, was put back on the DL. These were unlucky, but fortunately we did have fresh legged players who were ready and willing to do their bit on the field. Tho Duc Le had a solid day working through the middle, and the Tran Brother’s proved their tenacity. Kien seemed almost to be literally stuck to his man and Kevin proved his speed and determination by keeping the advancing offense outside of the box. Ethan Rozycki too was a force for good. His foot skills were scrappy and he moved the ball well in to Josh Wang who was making his mark at the midfield. He was solid, dependable and smart; three great qualities for the position. And too, we had Fintan Trimble whose undaunted efforts stuttered and stopped several drives up the side. These boys helped to keep Holderness out of our end; so that by the end of the half, Max touched the ball only when he had to place it in for goal kicks.
Fresh legs was certainly an advantage that we had; however, we also began to pass more effectively and continued to take shots. Trong, Cody, Jack, Yohan, and even Nick and Kyle each tried their best to put the ball into the net, but the Bulls’ keeper always seemed to be nearby to make the save.
Then with about twelve minutes left, Tryder Kulbacki received the ball from Jack. Tryder brought the ball up the left wing and sent in back into the middle to Trong. Trong’s shot was deflected by the keeper. In his attempt to reclaim it, the keeper reached out of the box to grab the ball and was penalized with a hand-ball. Trong set up for the direct kick. His shot bounced of the last man in the wall and spun inwards. Tryder timed his attack well and was there to drive the ball into the back of the net to tie the match up one to one.
As the minutes slowly ticked down, we kept the ball mostly in Holderness’s end. Jack, Cody, and Trong all had shots, and David hustled more than at any time this season, but we just couldn’t get the ball in. Finally, Liam sent in our last attempt from way outside the box, but it too was caught.
The final whistle blew and we ended a very well-played and exciting match. Just before we shook hands we learned that the tally was currently 4 wins to 4. Without planning it, we had just helped to make the final match of the evening the win-all. KUA and Holderness were tied with 4 ½ games apiece. The final Boys Varsity soccer game would decide which Head would be wearing the vest.
Although we are not scheduled to play against this Holderness team again Coach Custer and I hope to find a way to match up again against Coach Paro’s squad once more before the end of the season.
This Wednesday we head down to Northfield Mount Hermon for a 3:30 start