Patriots pull ahead to advance to semifinals

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HERITAGE HILLS 2

MT. VERNON 1

“Survive and Advance.”

That phrase is probably best well-known for Coach Jim Valvano and his North Carolina State mens basketball team during their run to the 1983 NCAA National Championship.

But in reality, it’s pretty much the mantra of every squad when they reach the post-season.

“Survive” the game you’re playing and “advance” to the next one.

That’s exactly what the Heritage Hills boys soccer team did against Mt. Vernon in their post-season opener.

The No. 14 ranked Patriots took the Wildcats’ best shot before eventually securing a hard fought 2-1 victory in the opening round of the Class 2A, Sectional 32 Tournament last Monday night at Traylor Family Stadium in Evansville.

Heritage Hills coach Joe Asbury expected their contest with Mt. Vernon could be a battle for a couple of reasons, and it turned out to be just that.

“We’re not a prolific scoring machine. We haven’t been all year,” said the Patriot boss. “It’s a scary game with Mt. Vernon because No. 9 is so good. You can possess the ball 90% percent of the time, and they get a counter and he’s off to the races.”

That’s actually what happened less than seven minutes into the contest when the Wildcats’ No. 9 — Grant Doherty — broke free and was awarded a penalty kick after being fouled in the box.

Heritage Hills’ goalie, Esau Valdez, however, was up for the challenge.

The Patriot senior made a diving save on Doherty’s PK attempt to keep the game scoreless.

“It was a really big save [in the first half] when Esau was able to defend the penalty kick to keep us in the game,” admitted Asbury. “We don’t score well and Mt. Vernon is really organized defensively. We felt like we had some matchups that we liked, but in general they’re well organized. If they get up 1-0, then they’re going to be more conservative and more organized. That was a really, really big deal that we didn’t go down [early].”

Neither team did.

The contest was a scoreless deadlock through the first half and during the early stages of the second.

The Patriots then finally broke through with 26:36 remaining in the contest. Originally thought to be an ‘own’ goal, Dixon Tate was actually credited with the score to give Heritage Hills a 1-0 lead.

“Dixon didn’t play in the first game against them because he was hurt, and he’s just now kind of finding himself,” said Asbury. “He’s dangerous in the box. We kind of found a way [to score] there.”

The Patriots later added to their lead with 13:11 left in the game when Brock Ficker finished a one-on-one opportunity to give his squad an all important 2-0 advantage.

“We put Brock up there because he causes a lot of problems, and he’s really physical,” said Asbury. “We’re trying to get him to create some stuff for us with his physicality. We saw that with the second goal.”

Ficker’s goal proved crucial as the Wildcats cut the deficit to 2-1 with just under two minutes remaining in the contest when Doherty converted a penalty kick after a foul in the box.

“We had an unfortunate situation at the end. I guess he hit him [in the box] after he got the ball and swung his legs around,” said Asbury. “That can happen. You can have an accidental foul or mishit. A 2-0 lead is obviously better than 1-0 for that reason.”

The Heritage Hills defense made sure Doherty’s goal was the last one of the contest as they held tough the rest of the way to earn the win and advance to the sectional semifinals against Boonville.

“That’s right, we were able to survive and advance,” concluded Asbury. “That’s what we try to do.”

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