The Warren County High School soccer team not only survived a muddy playing field Monday, the Pioneers thrived on it.
Playing around the puddles, or just running straight through them, the Pioneers kept their season and recent winning streak alive by downing the Cumberland County Jets 2-0 in the first game of the District 6-AAA tournament.
Warren County (4-9-1) went through most of the regular season without a win as the team needed nearly two months to pick up its first victory. Since beating DeKalb County April 25 though, the Pioneers haven’t lost again.
The four-game winning streak includes two victories over Cumberland County, including Monday’s elimination game against the Jets in the district tournament.
Warren County earned the right to play host to the play-in game with a 2-0 win over Cumberland County last Tuesday, but the stakes were raised when the Jets made the return visit to McMinnville Monday. Both teams knew a loss meant the end of the season and Pioneer seniors Robert Eschenbacher and Hozzy Macias weren’t ready to hang up their cleats.
Eschenbacher set the tone with a goal in the first 10 minutes, then Macias shut the door on the Jets with a final-minute goal in the second half as the Pioneers advanced to the semifinals of the district tournament.
Warren County coach Todd Willmore thought the Pioneers played really well against the Jets, which continued a solid streak of games for the team.
“Overall, we played really well and gave really good effort,” said Willmore. “We kept them on their heels all night long. It feels good to be on a four-game winning streak with three shutouts in a row.”
The chances Monday’s game would be played looked remote over the weekend as rain drenched the Warren County High School field. More daytime showers Monday added to the skepticism, but by game time both teams had adjusted to the muddy surface.
Eschenbacher looked like the quickest to adjust once the game kicked off. The senior striker flew up and down the field, leaving Jet defenders behind as he attacked the Cumberland County goal at will.
After a few close misses, Eschenbacher found the mark when he weaved through four defenders and let loose a shot that went low and left of the Cumberland County keeper. The shot trickled inside the left post, giving Warren County a 1-0 lead.
The Jets answered back by controlling the action in the late stages of the first half, but the visitors couldn’t capitalize on chances. One close call saw a Jet shot sail over Pioneer keeper Evan Reynolds’ head and hit the post, but the ball bounced back into the playing field and was cleared by Garrett Ortiz.
Warren County went into halftime nursing the 1-0 lead, but the Pioneers didn’t have to sweat out any close calls in the second half.
Warren County controlled action in the second half by keeping play in the Cumberland County zone. The Jets rarely moved the ball past midfield, much less getting a chance to tie.
Macias made sure the Jets wouldn’t have any late chances to even the score when he blasted a shot past the Cumberland County keeper for the game’s final goal in the last minute of play.
With the win, the Pioneers moved on to play Cookeville in the semifinals. The game was played last night and the result was unavailable at press time. Check the Southern Standard’s sports Twitter page (@SStandardSports) or Friday’s paper for more information.