11/05/11 — Spring Creek moves on past Princeton soccer

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Spring Creek moves on past Princeton soccer

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on November 5, 2011 11:54 PM

SEVEN SPRINGS -- Spring Creek slipped.

Spring Creek slid.

Spring Creek sloshed its way into the third round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-A boys' soccer playoffs.

Brandon Gonzalez scored an empty-net goal in the 46th minute of a 1-0, water-logged victory over Carolina Conference rival Princeton on a miserable rainy Friday evening at "The Swamp." The Gators (10-3-2 overall) entertain either Wallace-Rose Hill or Coastal Plains champion Southwest Onslow on Tuesday.

A swirling, bone-chilling rainstorm that blanketed eastern North Carolina for most of the day literally transformed the Spring Creek pitch into a soggy mess before kickoff. The players constantly lost their footing on the nearly-unplayable turf that had patches of standing water on each side of the midfield stripe.

"Cold and wet," said Gators assistant coach Dante Ortiz. "I told the guys we've played in worse conditions than this, this is nothing. It was all heart, I guess."

And all pressure.

Spring Creek controlled possession for more than 90 percent of the game and reeled off 26 shots on frame. Princeton keeper Zach Parker collected 12 saves between the pipes. Backup goalie Will Toler notched five saves after Parker departed midway through the second half with a torn ligament in his pinky finger on his right hand.

Parker recorded nine first-half saves.

"Zach played his best game ever, was up for the challenge and knew what he had to do," said first-year Princeton head coach Trent Heil. "That's something you need from your senior on a night like this."

The teams entered halftime scoreless and the rainstorm turned in a light drizzle for second-half play.

Ortiz stressed keeping the ball out of the midfield because of the dangerous playing conditions. When the Gators played the ball down the side and stretched the defense, they created open space in the midfield just outside the 18-yard box.

That strategy led to Gonzalez's second goal of the season.

Princeton defenders stabbed at the ball when Gonzalez dribbled from the left side of the field into the box. Parker dashed off his line and deflected the ball.

Gonzalez followed the rebound, stepped into the open space and scored to the delight of a rain-soaked, blanket-covered Gator fans.

"Luck," grinned Ortiz.

Spring Creek goalie Mauricio Bautista saw little action until head coach Mandy Ramfjord emptied the bench in the final 10 minutes. Bautista notched one save and preserved the Gators' third shutout of the season.

"Once the wind died down in the second half, we were able to create some offense," said Heil. "We just couldn't get anything going. We had Trevor Haines on defense and they had so much speed on their front line, I had to have someone out there who could match them.

"My seniors played their hearts out."

Princeton finished the season 5-11-2 overall.