Morning rain gave way to sunny skies for the boys’ soccer team’s first match of the season. Opposite them were the Colts of Half Hollow Hills West who returned eight starters from the year before and, in the words of Newsday, “will score a ton of goals this year.” Newsday’s premonition did not hold true on this day as the Bears fought one of the strongest teams on Long Island every inch of the way, eventually falling 2-0 in the non-league tilt.
The Bears and Colts split the time of possession, but it was clear that Hills West had many more quality chances. Our offense did not truly threaten once, while on the other side goalie Wes Woodley and our defense were constantly challenged by the attacking men in red. Woodley came up with several sparkling saves, making a diving stop on one and turning away a point blank shot on another. Hills had a few golden chances in the late minutes of the first half, but Woodley prevented one shot while on the ground while the second glanced unnervingly off the post. Everyone could feel that the Colts were putting together quality possessions and that, if given enough time, they would finally put one in the back of the net. The Bears were simply trying to hang on for a 0-0 draw at the half. Then, with 1:50 left in the opening frame, Hills West sent a long cross into the box and as Woodley went for the ball he collided with one of his defenders, allowing a Colt an easy look at a header for the game’s first tally. It was a tough end to the half, but the 1-0 score was still an impressive result for the Bears. | 0-1
The second half began much the way the first ended. Both sides scraped and clawed for every 50-50 ball. Neither side was willing to yield in any situation, which made for great theatre for the volleyball and girls’ soccer teams that watched from the Buyers’ Park stands after their practices. It may have been a much more exciting match the rest of the way had not a bizarre goal slipped in the early moments of the second half. In what appeared to be a miscommunication of some sort, a seemingly savable ball trickled into the net while the Stony Brook defenders waited for what they thought was an offside call. The whistle never came and the Bears found themselves down by a deuce. To their credit they still battled the Class AA power the rest of the way and even had two quality chances in the final ten minutes of the match before falling respectably, 2-0. | 0-2
The Bears should be very pleased with their effort this afternoon. The Colts had superior speed upfront, a bulwark of a defense, and a potent offense, but the Blue and White never capitulated in the face of the giant and played them very evenly. Woodley was peppered with shots all afternoon but was still nearly flawless between the posts and defenders Jon Wentling, Khoren Lawson, and Tyler Anderson played with fire and grit. PK Thorstenn and Anuraag Sah controlled the ball well up front, and, despite being giving up size to the Colts’ backfield, fought for every play in the air. The only glaring shortcoming in the match was our offense’s lack of threats on the opposing keeper. Hills West is a far better team than any we will see in League VIII, so the Bears proved today that they can play at a very high level.