Valiants lock up Bulldogs in second half of 1-1 tie

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholics Ben Davidson (10) and Wilder Boyden (12) celebrate Boydens second half goal against Dayton.

It wasn't a win for the Valley Catholic boys' soccer team.

But, it was a step in the right direction. And at this point in the preseason, that's all that counts.

Vying with an undefeated Dayton team Sept. 18, the Valiants were diligent and tireless for 80 minutes, outworking the Bulldogs for a majority of the match and earning a 1-1 tie.

Dayton entered the contest undefeated with two wins and a tie. Last Wednesday the No. 23 ranked Bulldogs were three spots ahead of Valley Catholic in the 3A Power Rankings. It was the Valiants' toughest opponent to date, and they came through with assertive play and increased defense.

“That was our best game so far,” said junior Wilder Boyden. “They came out really confident, and we just showed them up today. We outplayed them all the way, so if they can have a good season, that means we can have an even better one.”

“I'd say we outperformed them. We definitely outhustled them,” said sophomore Ben Davidson. “The mids played great. The defense played great. Everyone just played awesome. I think it shows that we can make a good run and keep improving.”

Dayton scored on a free kick to go up 1-0 with 54 seconds remaining in the first half, but Valley's successful crosses from Davidson to Binh Luu gave the Valiants faith a score was coming.

Just 10 minutes into the second half, that goal manifested itself in a big TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholics Gunnar Schaedler fights off a Dayton defender for a ball in the air in the first half.

Davidson dribbled through the teeth of the Bulldog defense with a smooth change of direction move that let him enter enemy terrain. As Dayton drew closer to the sophomore forward, Boyden — running up the left flank from centerback defender — saw his chance to make a break for it on the outside. The left-footed Davidson dropped the pass out wide to a galloping Boyden who nicked the ball along the near post of the goal and into the net to make it 1-1.

“I don't know if Ben saw me or not, so I was yelling my head off,” said Boyden. “He played it at the exact right moment... I was aiming for the far post, I don't know how that happened. It was a stroke of luck and amazing assist.”

In a game where Valley produced seemingly every big save and defensive stop, sophomore defender Victor Rodriguez turned out perhaps the play of the young season with two minutes to go in the second half. Dayton aggressively pushed its offense into Valiant territory and got two shots off on goal in a rapid round. The second attempt slipped through the arms of goalie Patrick Kelly, but Rodriguez retreated near the net, deactivated the roller with his foot and detonated a rocket clear to prevent the go-ahead score.

“I knew I had to run in, and that ball was right there, and I didn't want to miss it,” said Rodriguez. “I kept my head on it and tried to kick it as far as I could and kicked it out. I felt kind of happy. It saved the game in a way.”by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholics Ryosuke Mizuasko dribbles into Daytons side of the pitch in the first half of the Valiants 1-1 tie on Sept. 18.

“That was the play of the game,” added Boyden. “It was tied up. Tensions were getting hot. People were getting aggressive, but Victor cleared it when he needed to. It was damn near on the line, and he just cleared it out far.”

“He saved our butts,” said Davidson.

Valley's defense was better in the second half, Rodriguez said, because the team's dialogue was more suitable. Junior goalie Joe Coucher saved the Valiants' bacon by making three diving saves in the first half in one-on-none dilemmas, but the keeper couldn't do it by himself for an entire contest. Rodriguez acclaimed the efforts of Boyden and sophomore Branden Vennes whose constant communicating helped the Valiants get marked up defensively and not let Dayton get back in the scoring column. Gunnar Schaedler and Esai Morales brought a physical toughness to the pitch as well on defense.

“Brandon was the backbone of the field today,” said Rodriguez. “He was telling us where to go and everything. I feel like that helped us a lot because their team wasn't talking as much. Our communication went up, and it helped us out a lot throughout the game.”

Davidson said Valley Catholic put out much more of a team effort than it did against Gervais in a 4-4 tie. Then, the Valiants kept their heads down and didn't scope out the pitch for unobstructed teammates. Against the Bulldogs, Valley played a better all-around game, Davidson noted.

“We were playing as individuals last game,” said Davidson. “This time we were better all across the field. The mids were distributing a lot better. The forwards had a lot of good effort, too.”

Boyden said the tie was a huge confidence booster for the Valiants, a potential breakthrough for the squad before it starts Lewis and Clark League play.

“I think we have a lot more experience than we did at the beginning of the season,” said Davidson. “We're a pretty young team, and we're getting better every game. We were blown out the first two games, didn't play up to our potential, and now we're starting to realize it. We're playing a lot better.”by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholics Victor Rodriguez cleared out a possible Dayton scoring chance in the second half that saved the go-ahead goal.

“We just have to keep playing as a team and have confidence in each other,” added Rodriguez. “Because without either of those you can't go anywhere. We try to stay positive with all our players and keep that support up. That'll help us win games and maybe go to state.”

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