ROCKINGHAM – The wait to get back into the win column is over for the Richmond Senior High School boys varsity soccer team, as the Raiders ended their two-game slide Wednesday night. Tough Sandhills Athletic Conference opponent Lumberton High School failed to score, helping the Raiders secure a 1-0 win.
Despite not playing terribly, the Raiders (5-3, 2-2 SAC) lost back-to-back games for the first time this season, when they fell 5-1 to Pinecrest High School on August 28, and 2-1 in heartbreaking fashion to Jack Britt High School on September 6.
Playing for the first time in a week, Richmond looked like a well-oiled machine that produced a lot of scoring chances. The Raiders, who tied the Pirates 1-1 in double overtime last season and defeated them in the second meeting 2-1, handed Lumberton (6-2, 2-1 SAC) only its second loss on the season.
“We didn’t start out the way we wanted to tonight, but we were able to get things together,” head coach Bennie Howard said. “We played well. Lumberton is a very good team, as this is only their second loss of the season.
“Right now, we’re both 2-1 (in SAC play), so hopefully we can jump a couple spots in the standings. It’s a learning process for us, and a lot of our seniors stepped up tonight to make the win possible.”
Through a scoreless first half, both teams had ample opportunities to put the ball in the back of the net. Richmond senior goalkeeper Marcos Acosta made multiple saves in the net and around the box, and Lumberton’s sophomore goalkeeper Joan Carrillo matched him stop for stop. Heading into the break, neither team held an advantage.
However, following a Howard halftime pep talk that focused on his team’s willingness to keep battling, the Raiders found themselves on the scoreboard. With 33:00 minutes to go in the game, junior forward Carlos Alcocer won the ball and corralled it around midfield. Using fancy footwork, Alcocer split two Pirates defenders and ripped a laser from the top of the 18-yard box. The ball sailed untouched over Carrillo’s sprawling hands into the top left corner.
It was Alcocer’s team-leading sixth goal of the year, and he acknowledged he needed to step up if the Raiders were going to beat Lumberton.
“My priority tonight was to score a goal because it’s been a while for me,” Alcocer said. “It really didn’t matter who scored, as long as we got the win. Thankfully I took the shot and it went in.
“Every time we play Lumberton, it’s a competition,” Alcocer continued. “Tonight, we communicated better. We had it in our minds that we were going to win, and that’s what we did.”
The Raiders defense, led by senior center back Zane Ritter, held its opponent to a shutout for the fourth time this season. Senior forward Brett Baucom played spectacular defense, as he was tasked with sticking to Lumberton’s top offensive threat Rene Altamirano, who has 10 goals on the season.
Richmond senior center back Zane Ritter (16) battles with Lumberton’s Noah Taylor (1) in Wednesday’s 1-0 win.
“Last season, we let Rene (Altamirano) run free in the first game, but tonight was a different story,” Howard said. “I had the same game plan tonight. I put Brett on him, and he stuck with Altamirano the majority of the night. He had some opportunities, but thank goodness he didn’t connect.”
The junior varsity team also reentered the win column, holding Lumberton scoreless in a 4-0 victory. Scoring in the first minute of play, head coach Chris Larsen’s team (4-3, 1-2 SAC) continued to develop, which is something he has aspired to do all season.
“Everyone got some playing time tonight, which isn’t something we haven’t been able to do the last few games,” Larsen said. “All things considered, I think we played pretty good tonight.
“We came out ready to play,” Larsen added. “We’re making some good progress, and a lot of these kids are getting ready to step up into a varsity role.”
Opening the scoring for the Raiders was sophomore right outside midfielder Luke Steadman, who was assisted by freshman left outside midfielder Trevor Moss. Moss went onto score the next two goals, with freshman forward Noah Aiken gathering one assist. Aiken finished the game’s scoring with a goal of his own.
The varsity team will play Thursday night at home, making up a rainout from earlier in the season against Forest Hill High School. Junior varsity will have the night off. Varsity will get things started at 6 p.m.