Rose sticks Demons with their first loss, 4-2

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From a diversity perspective, the defense of the Fike High varsity boys soccer team experienced a wide range of scoring opportunities that led to goals during Tuesday’s nonconference clash with Greenville Rose. But taking sheer volume into account, there wasn’t an unreasonable amount of shots on frame faced by the Golden Demons.

Fike statistics credited the Rampants with six opportunities on goal. However, four of those efforts found the back of the Demons’ net, paving the way to Fike’s first loss in five outings after a 4-2 defeat.

The diverse nature of the balls that found their way into the Fike (3-1-1) net consisted of a finish off a giveaway in the sixth minute, a long ball in the 18th, transition play leading to a 3-on-1 in the 33rd and a superb individual effort from Rose’s Jonathan Daniel in the 62nd after he dribbled into the box and put it away past Fike senior keeper Tanner Sullivan.

“I thought we played much better than they did,” Fike head coach Chris Mizelle said. “They had some good individuals, but by no means am I impressed by what they were as a team. All I saw was we struggled to defend 1 v. 1, and we waste chances. We’re just seeing how big of a deal it is with Gavin (Wheeler) out injured right now, but I thought we played much better than they did throughout. They had six shots on goal and they scored four of them. It’s tough to win games like that.”

After falling behind 2-0, Fike junior Kevin Mendoza scored the first of his two goals by putting away a finish 38 seconds after the Rampants. In the 33rd, Rose, a 3-A member of the split 3-A/4-A Eastern Conference, made it 3-1. The Rampants (4-1-1) transitioned quickly on the counter and began a 3-on-1 break. It ended with Bryce Odom finding Daniel for the first of his two goals, and Daniel booted it by Sullivan for the two-goal lead.

“We don’t counter very well and we don’t defend the counter very well, and then we do very immature things,” Mizelle said. “We sit there and stab, and that’s just a lack of toughness and laziness. But I think that’s a very minor issue. I don’t think that’s something that’s very characteristic of us, and I’m not going to pin that on our guys and say that’s normal for them. But, it got them tonight.”

Mendoza pulled Fike back to within the range of an equalizer before halftime, putting away his second goal in the 35th. The Demons got the better of play to open the second half, but could not find the third goal despite a pair of promising buildups. Fike struck six corners and put 10 shots on frame.

“If we’re going to be counting on him to score two and three every night, it’s going to be a long season,” Mizelle said of Mendoza. “We’ve got to be able to be much more balanced on the scoresheet, both from who’s putting it in the net and who’s distributing it. Unless that happens, it’s not going to be the season we’re looking to have.”

While the Rose partisans asked for a double team on Mendoza after his second goal, the Rampants didn’t go in that direction, instead adjusting its zone marking designed to disrupt the combo of Mendoza and senior Myles Cyrus, specifically the latter.

“I did address our back four,” Rose head coach Sam Lee said of Mendoza. “We made two bad passes right on top of the 18, which (Mendoza) capitalized. Beautiful shots from him. Really, the guy that we wanted to lock down was No. 2 (Cyrus). He was a really, really good forward for them today, really checking in between spaces and finding those split passes. So once we isolated him in the second half, they lost a lot of that because (Mendoza) and (Cyrus) are playing really well together.”

Rose established a two-goal lead within the first 18 minutes. Fike’s giveaway in the sixth ultimately found the feet of Daniel, who sent it to Odom for the finish. In the 18th, Rose played a long ball down its sideline to Michael Valverde, who remained onside at the touch and put it by Sullivan unmarked in the side panel.

Trey Burleson stopped eight shots for the Rampants in goal. The Demons attempt to atone for their first loss Thursday night when they host Eastern Wayne.

“From 18 to 18, we were doing everything right,” Cyrus said. “Formation-wise and tactically, we were connecting balls and knocking it through the wide channels. I think two things to work on for us right now are just finishing in the box and defending counterattacks.”