Knights run out of gas in title rematch

Greenfield blanked by Neuse Christian 2-0 in Dr. Stone Memorial Showcase

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The high school boys soccer season is definitely more of a marathon than a sprint but it certainly felt like the latter for the Greenfield School Knights on the final day of their Dr. Robert T. Stone Memorial Showcase, or the 37th annual Greenfield Cup, on Saturday evening. 

Playing for the third time in as many days, the Knights failed to convert on several scoring opportunities and were blanked 2-0 by Neuse Christian of Raleigh in a rematch of last season’s North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association 1-A championship game, won by the Lions 4-2.

“I thought it was a good test for both sides to see where we’re at to start the season,” Greenfield head coach Eric Nguyen said. “We weren’t at full strength and I don’t think they were either.”

The Knights, coming off wins against Thales Academy and Hickory Christian on Thursday and Friday, were again without freshman defender Nathan Lozevski and sophomore Matt Kirby. Greenfield held a decided edge in possession, per the Knights’ statistics, at 65% to 35% but the Lions claimed a clearcut advantage in shots at 22-14.

The match was scoreless until Neuse Christian’s Bryce Teller took possession after a Knights turnover with about 15 minutes left. Dribbling against a pair of Greenfield defenders, Teller faked a shot before pulling the ball back and sticking it in the right side of the goal.

Neuse Christian, which added a goal in the final minute, held on for its third shutout to start the season. The Lions topped Hickory Christian 1-0 in overtime Thursday and routed Thales 9-0 on Friday.

“The boys definitely played hard,” Nguyen said. “They didn’t give up and created plenty of chances. I think the game could have gone either way but it didn’t go in our favor this time. Maybe it’s better that we lose to them now and not later.”

Nguyen credited the play of juniors Frankie Peele and William Smith along with senior Nick Sessoms. Peele, the Knights’ second-year head coach said, “did a good job of distributing out of the back,” while Smith, the right wing, “created some good opportunities really getting other players involved.” Sessoms, primarily a basketball player for the Knights playing soccer for just the second year, displayed some athleticism at left back, keeping up with the ball.

While both teams looked sluggish at times, Nguyen said it had less to do with lack of conditioning on the part of the Knights, who started practicing the first of August.

“It was probably more three games in three days,” he said. “Fitness was definitely an issue but we’ve been working on playing a more up-tempo style, but to do that on two straight days and then do it again on a third, it’s hard to bounce back into it.”

Greenfield will have time to work on it since the Knights are off until Tuesday, Aug. 20, when they host Beddingfield in a showcase with Hunt and Wilson Christian also participating. The event came together when the Rotary Cup was shelved this season due to scheduling issues. The Knights will host Hunt on Thursday, Aug. 22.