RED SPRINGS — The taxing non-conference schedule that St. Pauls boys soccer coach Brent Martin set up for his experienced team this season was meant to prepare the Bulldogs for the conference season ahead of them, and Monday night was the first test to see if the demands of playing well-skilled 4A and 3A teams would pay off for his squad.
“When you play that level of a non-conference schedule, it makes all of the other stuff seem easier,” Martin said. “Not to knock off South Columbus and Whiteville and other teams in the conference, but it’s just a different level. … It prepares you better.”
St. Pauls used a balanced offensive attack of four goals by three different players to pick up a 4-2 win in its first Three Rivers Conference match of the season at Red Springs on Monday night.
“That’s how it is this year,” Martin said of the balance. “There’s no one main guy. We’ve got a couple of guys that are doing well and providing for the team.”
Franky Velazquez scored two goals in the match, his first coming in the 11th minute as the Bulldogs (3-6) jumped ahead 2-0 early on the Red Devils.
“They (Red Springs) had two errors and that’s where the two goals came in,” Red Springs coach William Garcia said. “The defense had its errors. We tried to reset and play our game, and that’s when we were able to come back and reset our minds to play in that 0-0 mindset.”
The early lead was cut in half right before halftime as Francis Rodriguez scored on a look ahead pass from Tony Cortez to give Red Springs (3-1) its first goal. Rodriguez went down with an injury in the waning seconds before halftime and sat out the rest of the match, leaving a void in the Red Devils front line.
“Francis is always hungry for the ball and it just depends on who matches that intensity up at the front,” Garcia said. “Without Francis, the intensity did go down a little bit, but we still have a good bench.”
Six minutes out of halftime, Abdoul Kabre, who joined St. Pauls following the start of the season after transferring from Texas, dribbled down the endline and beat the keeper for a goal to push the St. Pauls lead out to 3-1.
After Red Springs cut the lead back to 3-2 with a Oscar Cruz goal on a corner kick, the Bulldogs responded a minute later with Velasquez racking up his second goal with a header on a cross from Shaquay Davis.
With a roster full of seniors, it’s an underclassman that is tied for the team lead in goals scored For St. Pauls as sophomore Alexis Mendez scored his fifth goal of the season on a cornerkick in the eighth minute.
“We’ve got a leading goal-scorer, but it’s not anybody who you would’ve thought it would’ve been,” Martin said. “He’s taken on a big responsibility that would’ve been shouldered by (Anthony) Espinosa or Richie Flores. His addition has really helped the team.”
Both teams play home conference games next Monday with St. Pauls hosting East Columbus and Red Springs playing Whiteville.
Lumberton rolls past Pine Forest
LUMBERTON — The Lumberton girls volleyball team recorded a 3-1 win over Pine Forest at home on Monday night.
The win moved the Lady Pirates to 6-3 on the season with scores of 26-16, 25-22, 23-25 and 25-14.
Madison Canady had a team-high nine kills, London Thompson had eight kills, Brooke Taylor added 18 digs and Christina Dickerson had three aces with 26 assists.
Lumberton plays Hoke at Magnolia Elementary School today.
In middle school action, Rowland defeated Prospect in five sets. Rowland lost the first set 25-8, won the second 30-28 andlost the third 25-11 before winning back-to-back sets to claim the match.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.