Mt. Pleasant boys blank Freeport for 10th straight victory
Mt. Pleasant boys soccer coach Floyd Snyder said his team does not worry about shutouts per se, “Just shutting teams down.”
Fair enough. But one aspect has led to the other — eight times this season, in fact.
That shutdown defense was at it again.
On Thursday night, the fourth-ranked Vikings made a first-half goal by senior defender Ben Bailey stand up, and their stingy defense helped blank Freeport, 1-0, to clinch the Section 2-AA title.
The win at Vikings Stadium was Mt. Pleasant's 10th in a row, and eighth via shutout during a streak that has seen them outscore teams 36-2.
“Our guys all get along so well,” Snyder said. “I mean, they bicker like brothers every once in a while, but when it's time to go, they go.”
And another tough section game meant go time again.
Junior Shane Piper made six saves and junior forward Sam Napper assisted Bailey's header on a corner kick that came at the 15:49 mark of the first half for the Vikings (12-0, 11-0), whose last section title came four years ago.
“I had my first high school varsity goal on Tuesday, and this was my second one,” Bailey said. “It came at a pretty good time. I saw it roll past his glove. We have chemistry — we all have each other's backs.”
Snyder is happy with his defense but doesn't think the Vikings have played their best game yet.
“We really stress pressure support, getting one guy on the ball and taking passing angles away,” Snyder said. “We're a dangerous team in transition. We hit the post tonight a couple times.”
Freeport (10-4, 7-3), which lost to Mt. Pleasant, 2-0, earlier in the season, had nine shots on goal, the last one a direct kick zinger in the closing seconds off the foot of senior Kendrick Trim that Piper came out and stopped.
The Vikings exhaled and began celebrating. Players gathered in the net together and later dumped ice on Snyder.
Freeport hopes to build off the near-miss for a potential postseason run.
“Our kids battled tonight; I feel bad for them after a game like this because they put so much in,” Freeport coach Dave Teorsky said. “Mt. Pleasant plays a physical game. In the second half, they hunkered down defensively. Eight guys in the box makes it tough to get through.”
Freeport senior keeper Giovonni Pugliese made five saves for the Yellowjackets, who attacked with urgency in the second half.
“You have to prepare for physicality with Freeport,” Snyder said. “They have some big, strong athletes and they attack with pace. You have to keep your head in the game against them. They keep pounding and pounding so you have to press back against it and have that bend-don't-break mentality.”
Piper said communication is the key to his team's defense, which posted seven straight shutouts during their winning streak.
“We shut them down and they were concerned about our attack because it's so strong,” he said. “Winning the section is very important to us, and we take it very seriously.”