11/13/09 — Gators face No. 1-ranked Dixon

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Gators face No. 1-ranked Dixon

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 13, 2009 1:46 PM

SEVEN SPRINGS -- The Spring Creek men's soccer team is going where no Wayne County team has gone before -- to the eastern regional championship game.

The No. 2-ranked Gators achieved the historical moment with a 1-0 victory over No. 6-ranked Raleigh Charter in a driving rainstorm Tuesday evening at "The Swamp." The shutout, Spring Creek's 14th of the season, set up a contest against No. 1-ranked Dixon for the N.C. High School Athletic Association 1-A eastern regional title.

Kickoff is 6 p.m. Saturday

Weather delayed one western regional semifinal between Hendersonville and Albemarle on Thursday due to unplayable conditions. No. 5-ranked Monroe defeated Bishop McGuinness 3-1 in the other semifinal.

Directed by first-year head coach Paul Estrada, the Gators' "futbol" squad becomes just the third program in Spring Creek history to play for a regional title in any sport. Coach Robert Jones led the women's and men's tennis teams to regional championships in 2003 and 2006, respectively. Each settled for state runner-up honors.

The Gators' driving force this season has been unity and devotion.

"Their dedication to this sport and each other is what I have enjoyed the most this season," said Estrada. "They make coaching easy because I don't have to worry about a piece of the team missing for a match because their attention is somewhere else.

"(Their strength) is each other ... one team and not 11 individuals."

Spring Creek (17-2-1 overall) has outscored the opposition 124-9 this season and has allowed just one goal in the last 560 minutes of play -- a span of eight matches. The team's top five scorers are Antonio Avila, Ricardo Rangle, Dante Ortiz, Jesus Sandoval and Omar Zavala.

Avila tallied the game-winning goal off Luis Ramirez's assist against Raleigh Charter. Rangle collected two goals and an assist in a second-round victory over Southwest Onslow.

Dixon (18-5-1) is expected to present a challenge.

The Dogs have recorded 12 shutouts this season and punched in 18 goals during the playoffs.

"I don't know much about them," said Estrada, who coached Wayne Country Day to a state runner-up finish in 2006. "But, on paper, they seem to be a very good team."

Dixon is seeking its third regional championship since 2003.

The Gators, who are 30-3-3 during the past two seasons, must play their normal system and utilize their strengths. Estrada expects nerves may factor into the outcome, but knows if Spring Creek uses its speed and fluidity effectively, it can emerge victorious.

"You try to be confident in your abilities, but ready for anything," said Estrada. "It think it's a matter of looking inward and finding that hunger to push forward and play your best. Staying solid in the back and controlling not only the tempo, but the emotion (is key).

"It will be great if we can jump out early and take the crowd out of it. (If we) do all that, we can let our forwards do what they do best."

That's put the ball in the 'ole onion bag and continue Spring Creek's history-making journey.