Freshman Christian Rossi scored his first varsity goal and keeper Sam Herner made several stops as Saline bested Pioneer, 1-0, in an SEC Red contest at Hornet Stadium Tuesday.
Saline improved to 4-1-3 overall and 1-0-1 in the SEC Red.
Saline picked up three points in the SEC Red standings to keep pace with Skyline. Both teams have four points.
Saline visits Bedford Thursday.
Saline head coach Ryan Williams was happy to pick up a win against a good Pioneer team even though the Hornets did not turn in their best effort.
“To get a win and get three points was very good based on how the game went. I thought Pioneer played a really good game. I was a little frustrated with our effort from start to finish. We just need a more of a complete effort on the ball and off the ball,” Williams said. “I think a lot of the turnovers we were having was due to a lack of movement off of the ball.”
He was pleased with the team’s defensive effort.
“Defending, we’ve been really disciplined and the kids positioning has been great,” Williams said.
Saline carried play for the first five minutes of the game and then Pioneer reversed the action on Saline. About 12 minutes, keeper Sam Herner made a big save on a long, bounce shot. Saline came right down the field and Eric Kent was fouled deep in Pioneer territory along the right sideline. Awarded a free kick, Kent played it into the box - over the Pioneer goalie and defense. Rossi, a freshman who’s impressed throughout the season, got his head on the ball and directed the ball into the gaping net.
“Eric kicked it in. The goalie missed it. Both centerbacks missed it. I had the goal wide open and it was just an easy tap in with my head,” Rossi said.
Williams credited Kent for a great service. And, Williams said, the rest of the Hornets played it well to create the space for Rossi to finish.
Still, Williams has been impressed by the freshman.
“Christian is a really special player. He’s one of the best freshman that I’ve ever seen at this level. He just thinks a step quicker than others. He’s really good in the air and it showed on that goal,” Williams said.
Saline didn’t have many more quality opportunities. The best probably came on a great rush up the center by Zeke Gray in the second half. Gray’s hard low shot skidded just wide of the goal.
Most of the action was at the other end, where Herner made several stops, including a diving save with about 10 minutes to play. Herner now has two shutouts in the SEC Red - one against Pioneer and one against Skyline. He credited his defense for the clean sheet.
“I’m feeling good (in goal) but it’s a huge shoutout to the defense. No huge changes were let up for me to have to save,” Herner said.
The Saline Post 3 Stars
Christian Rossi - The freshman’s first varsity goal was the game-winner against rival Pioneer.
Sam Herner - Saline’s goalie credited his defense - which played well. But he still made a couple good saves to preserve the victory.
Jason Head - The entire defense deserves credit, but whenever a key attack was thwarted, it seemed like Jason Head was there for Saline.