Yellowjackets shut out Van Vandals at home
The Yellowjacket soccer side used some more “Meredith magic” by posting a hard-earned 3-0 win over the Van Vandals Friday. Mineola warmed to the game slowly but came to dominate the proceedings in all aspects.
Unlike last week’s home-opener against Crandall, the Jackets started slowly against the Vandals. Van surged forward and mustered six forays into the offensive zone in the first eight minutes. In the 6th minute a rebound from a Van free kick fell at the feet of an attacker, but the Vandal shot flew just wide.
The Jackets were suffering from a case of one-touch defense in the early going, and Van was making them pay.
It was veteran Yimi Nunez who woke up the Jackets. His aggressive efforts on the Jackets’ left wing turned the game around. In the 10th minute he just missed a breaking Ramiro Mata with a pass that would have put Mata one-on-one with the keeper. A minute later Nunez juked two defenders and broke into the clear for an effort on goal as a third defender nicked the ball away.
The message to the team was clear: attack. Mineola owned the remainder of the first half.
Most of the action moved to the Yellowjackets’ offensive half. The pressure culminated with a picture-perfect score by Nathan Rojas in the 15th minute. Rojas shouldered down a long throw-in, measured the goalkeeper and placed an untouchable left-footed shot into the netting. He beat the keeper low and to the left.
Two minutes later Omar Galaz took a centering pass from Mata and very nearly added to the score with a beautifully-handled shot attempt. It sailed just over the crossbar.
Rojas struck again in the 23rd minute. He received a short corner, opened the angle on goal and laced a strong left-footed shot into the upper left corner. There was no play for the Van keeper; the shot was perfectly placed.
Van upped their effort to close the score in the last 10 minutes of the half. The visitors squandered two excellent scoring chances. For the second time, a ball fell at the feet of a Van attacker directly in front of the Mineola goal, and again the shot went awry. In the 38th minute, a long cross to the far post was there for the taking, but the Vandal attacker simply whiffed on the shot.
The confidence that Mineola asserted in the first half was due in part to the excellent play in goal of John Underwood. Twice in the first half Underwood came strongly out of his goal to sweep up Van attacks. The normal junior varsity goalkeeper, Underwood shut the Vandals down with great awareness and a series of nice reactive saves.
As expected, the Vandals came out hot in the second half. Mineola absorbed the intensity and turned it right back on the visitors. Rojas buried a rebound off a Mata shot in the 45th minute to record a hat trick and give Mineola the 3-0 advantage.
Both sides had further excellent chances, but no more scoring was at hand. Defensively, the Jackets benefitted from some booming clearances by their back line, at least two of which were converted directly to attacks. Of note, Max Lopez put in a quality game defending the right flank.
Mineola’s defense and goal tending certainly featured against Van. It was however the offensive combination play for which this game will be remembered. Rojas, Galaz, Mata and Nunez put on a clinic of unselfish, attacking soccer.
The Yellowjackets are 2-0 at Meredith Memorial Stadium this season and have yet to give up a goal on their home turf. The win puts Mineola 1-1 in district play after opening district with a 5-1 loss at Athens. The team travelled to Bullard Tuesday and will be back at Meredith Memorial Stadium on Friday hosting Cumberland.