Wilmington, NC - Cape Fear mens soccer played one of its best games of the season Sunday afternoon, but would fall short against top ranked Spartanburg Methodist, 3-4. Cape Fear would take the lead three times throughout the game, responding well each time Spartanburg equalized. Freshman goalkeeper Martin Zambrano would record 15 saves.
The Sea Devils were aggressive to start the game, matching Spartanburg's intensity. Zambrano would make a great save in the 5th minute, stopping a low, quickly moving shot that was heading for the left low corner.
Spartanburg applied a lot of pressure, but Cape Fear did a great job defending their attacks.
Cape Fear would take their first lead in the 18th minute. After earning a free kick, freshman Allen Sanchez connected with sophomore Andrew Barton from 27 yards out, who would head the ball in.
The game would open up, and Spartanburg would come close to scoring twice. Cape Fear would maintain the momentum, and do a great job of closing down opponents on the ball.
In the 25th minute, Renzo Tenorio would almost double the lead. Spartanburg would turn the ball over in their own third, and Tenorio would get a shot on goal out of it, but it would go straight at the keeper.
The Sea Devils would hold the lead until the 32nd minute, when Spartanburg's Malcolm Frago would tie the game at 1-1. The home team would respond well, first by earning two corners back to back. Unfortunately, neither would create a scoring chance. Then, two minutes later, Barton would take a shot from more than 30 yards out, but the keeper would save it.
Cape Fear's pressure would pay off again in the 40th minute. Off a throw-in near Spartanburg's goal, Keaton Simmons would connect with Dan Jacobo, who would slip the ball past the keeper to put the Sea Devils back on top, 2-1.
They would only hold that lead briefly, however, as Spartanburg's Tom Mitchinson would level the score off a free kick in the 42nd minute, capping off what was an exciting and intense first half.
Spartanburg would come out of halftime as the better side, getting a number of shots on goal in the early minutes, and forcing Zambrano into making multiple saves.
The home team would begin to gain a better foothold as the second half wore on, playing more like they did in the first half.
Cape Fear's third goal would come in the 68th minute. Freshman Alfredo Martinez would dribble into the box and be fouled, earning a penalty. He would take the penalty, kicking it hard and high past the keeper.
They would get another great opportunity to score a few minutes later, earning a free kick in the 71st minute. Martinez would take the free kick, but shoot it right at the keeper.
The rest of the game became one of survival for the Sea Devils, as the Pioneers would began pushing higher and higher up the field in search of an equalizer. It would nearly come in the 75th minute, when Spartanburg would hit the crossbar after firing a shot from 35 yards.
By this point, Spartanburg looked as if they wouldn't be able to equalize. Many of their scoring chances would come up short, and there was a growing sense Cape Fear would be able to hold on.
However, Spartanburg would eventually level it in the 77th minute, seconds after Morales had a clear shot on goal stopped by the goalkeeper. They would then take the lead in the 81st minute.
Cape Fear would push the tempo in search of a fourth goal, but they would come up short.
Despite the loss, head coach C.W. Ponton was proud of his team. "It's one of those games where the guys left it on the field, so I'm happy with that."
Ponton noted that small mistakes led to the goals, but couldn't emphasize enough how well his team played considering it was their second game in two days. "Unfortunately, small mishaps can lead to goals and that's what happened today. But I am very proud of the guys and the work they put in, especially considering that we just played yesterday against a tough opponent, [After traveling 12 hours on the bus yesterday, to put in a performance like this against the top team in the region, it's bitter sweet."
The Sea Devils move to 3-10 on the season, and 3-9 in conference.
They are scheduled to play next on Tuesday, October 18th, where they will take on Patrick Henry Community College at Legion Stadium. Game time is set for 7:30 p.m.
Courtesy of Nick Denning