MONTESANO — In a contest in which both teams stayed on the verge of scoring, it was Elma that finally broke through in the season’s first East County boys soccer contest.
Aiden Sayers-Hartman scored in the 63rd minute to give the Eagles a 1-0 win in an Evergreen 1A League contest on March 29 at Rottle Field.
Elma (1-1, 3-4) did well to keep the ball away from Montesano (0-1, 0-6-2) and its attackers for most of the game but hadn’t quite been able to connect on any ball hat was played into the box.
Though there were a lot of close calls for both keepers, Elma’s A.J. Hernandez and Monte’s Waymn Thoemmes both had relatively quiet nights on terms of actually having to make saves.
But when a shot from Rodrigo Luna was mishandled, Sayers-Hartman tapped the ball in just feet from the goal line, taking advantage of some miscommunication on Monte’s part.
“There was a five-second lapse where everyone stopped playing and that’s when they got their goal,” Monte coach Rick Denholm said. “We pretty much played a full 80 minutes except for those five seconds where everyone sat back and watched that goal go in.”
With Elma dropping more players back on defense as stoppage time drew nearer, Monte almost came up with an equalizer.
Connor Parkinson had a defender chasing him down and tried to place a shot at the near post but Hernandez came up with a clutch save on what ended up being Montesano’s last big scoring threat.
Elma head coach Carson Seaberg was impressed with the work of the backline and his midfielders when it came time to protect the slim lead.
“We’re trying to read the play earlier and not reacting to a play,” he said. “That was important for us and I thought we did a better job of that today and made it difficult for them to become as dangerous.”
While Elma’s defense had to be aware of Parkinson at all times, the Bulldogs got a solid game from Ben Bernhardt, who had a standout game as defender and helped clear the ball out of trouble several times when the Eagles were on the attack.
The Eagles did well connecting on passes to get the ball upfield but Elma had trouble finishing on crosses even when working from their set pieces.
The number of shots and volleys that just barely missed their mark is not reflected in the final score but Seaberg like what his midfielders and forwards were trying to do for the most part.
“When we took the ball out wide and crossed the ball into the box, that’s when we were at our most dangerous,” he said. “I would have liked to see them do it a little bit more than they did but we kept the pressure up and played with the ball in our end of the field.”
Both teams will get some time off before they hit the field for their next matches. The Bulldogs will be off until they face Hoquiam on April 11 and Elma won’t have another game until taking on Charles Wright Academy at home on April 12.