LUMBERTON — The Lumberton High School boys soccer team put on a defensive showcase against Jack Britt on Thursday night.
The Pirates (1-0) used a strong backline and superb play from junior goalie Nick Veneziano to hold on for a 1-0 victory over the visiting Buccaneers (0-2).
The tough defensive stand was a welcome sight for Lumberton coach Kenny Simmons, who was disappointed in his defense last weekend in the team’s preseason jamboree.
“Defense was the key for us,” Simmons said after Thursday’s game.
“We stayed organized all night. Nick in goal, the back four … were so horrible in our scrimmage jamboree, so I lit into them pretty good.
“But they knew they could play better. Tonight was great, you couldn’t ask for any more.”
Senior captain Miguel Bello scored the decisive goal on a penalty kick with 17 minutes left in the first half, blasting the ball in the right side of the net as the keeper dove left. Bello was awarded the kick after being tripped in the box by a Buccaneer defender.
The Pirates got most of their opportunities on counterattacks. Jack Britt had several shots carom off the post and were unable to sneak one past Veneziano on other scoring chances.
Offensively, Simmons expects his squad to rely heavily on counters throughout the season.
“I think as the season progresses against quality competition like Jack Britt, we’re going to have to be a counter-attacking team,” Simmons said.
“We’ve got players with some speed and technical abilities in guys like Miguel and Rene (Altamirano). We’ll cause some teams problems with our counter.”
The Buccaneers were the aggressor in the opening minutes, getting two early shots on goal. But Veneziano and the Pirate backline held strong to withstand the early attack.
“This is a quality win,” Simmons added. “They’ve been one of the top teams in Fayetteville for a couple of years now. It’s always good to get that first win under your belt. Maybe it will give us some confidence (moving forward).”
The Buccaneers had one final shot for the equalizer on a free kick with two seconds to play in the match, but the ball flew over the net as time expired.
As far for the season outlook, Simmons is hopeful his team can improve on a 13-9-1 record last season that included a 6-4 mark in the Southeastern Conference. The Pirates finished in third place behind Richmond and first-place Pinecrest.
“We’ve got to keep getting better,” he said.
“Develop some of our young guys so they can provide some depth. We’re not deep, but I’ve seen some glimpses. I think we can compete in the Southeastern Conference. But Pinecrest and Richmond will be the teams to beat.”
As for now, Simmons is focused on using the next few non-conference games to groom his team.
“It’s all about us getting better,” he said. “We’ll see if we can do that.”
The Pirates will be back on the pitch Monday when they travel to Hope Mills for a non-conference game at 7 p.m. against South View.
Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182. Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.