The season opener for the Athens Hornets soccer team saw some promising signs for coach Brendan Rich.
Athens lost 2-1 to the Center Roughriders at Bruce Field, but the Hornets were missing players due to COVID-19 and players still out for the Christmas break.
“My thoughts are very positive. Coming in we had a couple of guys out with COVID issues and we knew that was going to be a part of the season,” Rich said. “I am very proud of my boys and the effort that they gave knowing they were down. They did not let that deter them and they fought until the very last minute.”
Center scored its first goal with 11 minutes remaining in the first half. They scored their second goal with 18:35 remaining in regulation for a 2-0 lead.
“The first one was a miscommunication that they echoed to me at halftime,” Rich said. “The second one we have to give it to them because they created a great opportunity and finished it. They earned the second one.”
Athens cut the deficit to 2-1 on a rebound goal by Ty Arroyo with 10:43 remaining. Arroyo had a chance to tie the game with 9:36 remaining, but it went wide of the Roughriders goalie.
“I saw effort and something that we have been needing that of him,” Rich said. “He is going to be a thoroughbred and a big part of us moving forward.”
The Hornets return to action Tuesday, Jan. 12 at Chapel Hill. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
“I think it is a blessing,” Rich said. “It gives us time to review and really focus on what we need to do instead of going to the next match. That week gives us time to get our guys back and regroup for the season.”
Rich said on the offensive end of the field, it was tough to see the ball go off the goal post on at least three shots.
“That is how soccer is with sometimes being a game of inches,” Rich said. “I think we executed when we needed to but it just didn’t go our way. I am very proud of them on the offensive side.”
He said for the guys who did suit up in the opener, he was proud of how they handled the game plan against a talented Center squad.
“We came in with a game plan knowing how they moved,” Rich said. “There was a little bit of some tweaks here and there but that is just coaching. They didn’t surprise us with a lot and they have a little more cleaner touches tonight and that happens.”
With only 16 games remaining between now and the playoffs, he said the team will have time to gel as a team now that they are returning to campus from the Christmas break.
“We need to rebuild that chemistry,” Rich said. “Having guys out with COVID issues and having everyone out over the break, we haven’t had a cohesive amount of practices with all the fluctuation of things. Now that school is back in session, we will key on that chemistry and rebuilding as a solid group.”
In junior varsity action, Athens and Center tied at 2-2.