Mike Hughes has never seen his players quit.© Al Amrhein | For/NJ Advance Media Salem's Randy Sayers (11), shown during a game against Clayton in 2019, helped the Rams earn their first win of the season last week.
There certainly were opportunities to do so this season, as the losses piled up for the Salem boys soccer team — 16 straight, to be exact, and 21 in a row dating back to last year. But through it all, even the three one-goal defeats where the Rams just couldn’t catch a break, they continued to put forth maximum effort until the final whistle.
Salem’s perseverance paid off Friday with a 1-0 victory over Gloucester Catholic, its first of the season.
“It felt good to finally get a win,” Hughes said. “They’ve done a really good job of pushing through and continuing to show up and try their hardest. We’ve had a handful of games that we could’ve won, but then little freak accidents or something weird would happen. I’d say there were four or five close games where we put up a battle against good teams. It was kind of strange that it took so long to get our first win this season, so everyone was extremely excited.”
Junior midfielder Randy Sayers scored the lone goal in the first half off a feed from senior defender Colin Roy. Sayers has four of Salem’s 11 goals this season.
“Randy has been a super part of our offensive attack, which has definitely been a weak spot for our team,” Hughes said. “But he plays center mid and he does as much as he can. He’s put a few in the net and had a handful of assists as well.
“(Roy) was around the 50 or so and had a nice send ball through their back defensive line. Randy was able to get on it and put it in the net. It was a beautiful send; he threaded the needle.”
The veteran defense took over from there, with senior center back Donovan Federanko flanked by Roy and senior Irving Talavera. Hughes credited those players for their leadership not just in the win but all season.
Junior goalie Alex Gomez came up with a few big saves when he had to for the shutout.
“He played really well,” Hughes said. “He was aggressive, he wasn’t afraid to come out (and challenge). That’s one thing he’s had to grow into. Originally, Colin Roy was our goalie and in about the seventh game of the season I switched him and Alex. Alex has been growing throughout the season and learning on the job. Gloucester Catholic didn’t have many shots, but he’s had a couple of games where he’s had over 10 saves.”
Salem will learn on Tuesday if it will be included in the field for the South Jersey, Group 1 playoffs. If not, the Rams will finish their season on Thursday against Buena.
Either way, they ensured that this will not be a winless campaign. Perhaps the most impressive part of the victory was that Salem only had 11 players, so everyone had to play the whole game. The only people on the bench were Hughes and his older brother Josiah, his assistant coach.
“Another thing that has been difficult is we lost Evan Biddle, a junior and a really good midfielder,” Hughes said. “He got a concussion against Clayton, a game we almost won. He’s someone who had a huge impact on our team. Another defender, Dorian Asturrizaga, has a high ankle sprain. So (Friday) we had exactly 11 guys, no subs. Everyone who was there had to show up and perform.”
STRONG SHOWING: Four of the five teams from the South Jersey Times coverage area selected for the Coaches Tournament won their first-round games. The fifth, 13th-seeded Schalick, put a scare into fourth-seeded St. Augustine before suffering a heartbreaking 3-2 loss in the final minute.
Third-seeded Washington Township edged 14th-seeded Paul VI, 3-2, for its 11th straight win. The Minutemen will host sixth-seeded Kingsway, a 3-0 winner over 11th-seeded Cherokee, in the quarters on Monday.
The two Gloucester County powers split a pair of matchups in 2019, with Kingsway winning 3-0 in the regular season and Washington Township earning a 1-0 victory in the sectional quarterfinals.
Seventh-seeded West Deptford took out 10th-seeded Moorestown, the defending champion, and will face 15th-seeded Middle Township, which stunned second-seeded Shawnee in penalty kicks.
Eighth-seeded Clearview was the other local to advance, as the Pioneers topped ninth-seeded Egg Harbor to set up a game against top-seeded Cinnaminson.
The semifinals are scheduled for Wednesday and the final on Saturday, both at DeCou Fields in Cherry Hill.
GETTING HOT AT THE RIGHT TIME: Millville has won four straight and six of its last seven heading into the final week of the regular season. The only hiccup during that stretch was a 2-1 loss to Egg Harbor, the Cape-Atlantic League Tournament champion.
Junior Shawn McCarthy has two goals during the winning streak and has six on the year to share the team lead with freshman Terron Stevenson. The Thunderbolts are 11-4 overall.
Glassboro is another hot team with four wins and a tie in its last five games to even its record at 7-7-1. The Bulldogs upset Woodstown 2-1 in overtime last week behind goals from Ryan Carter and Atakan Ozdemir.
Carter, a senior midfielder, has been on an absolute tear with 11 goals during the unbeaten streak. He and Ozdemir, a sophomore forward, both have 13 goals on the season to lead the team, and sophomore forward Emirhan Kir has 13 assists.
DIVISION CHAMPS: Pitman wrapped up its fifth straight Tri-County Conference Classic Division title last week. Gateway claimed the outright championship in the Colonial Patriot and Sterling took the Colonial Liberty.
In the Olympic, Shawnee finished first in the Olympic American and Cherry Hill West grabbed the Olympic National title. Egg Harbor needs to beat Vineland this week to share the Cape-Atlantic American crown with Hammonton.
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Source : https://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/more-sports/south-jersey-times-boys-soccer-notebook-salem-finally-rewarded-for-its-efforts/ar-AAPU4Di1272