Andrew Palumbo, right, scored three times Wednesday to lead the nation’s No. 1-ranked Darton men’s soccer team to a 6-0 rout of Thomas University. (David Mann/Darton State College)
ALBANY — Andrew Palumbo stretched out his arms and looked to the sky.
After scoring his third goal in Wednesday’s 6-0 victory against Thomas University’s junior varsity team, the Darton sophomore froze in the middle of the field for an instant, gazing toward the heavens.
Palumbo and the Cavs have plenty to be thankful for this season.
“That was a good feeling,” said Palumbo, whose third goal came 40 seconds after his second. “Everything is just starting to click right now, and we are in a good place. Hopefully we can keep it going.”
The Cavs are the top-ranked junior college team, are 9-0 overall and have outscored their opponents this season, 23-7.
And Wednesday’s shutout, which was the team’s second in a row, might have been Darton’s best showing yet.
“In the first half, some of our culmination play and our chemistry was as good as it’s been all year,” Darton coach Bart Sasnett said. “I really and truly feel like we haven’t played our best soccer yet, but I do feel like we are getting better every week.”
The Cavs have had four shutouts in their past five games, allowing their only goal in the past three weeks during a 6-1 victory against Thomas University’s junior varsity team on Sept. 11.
“We identified that,” Sasnett said. “We don’t ever like giving goals up. We expect to have clean sheets every match. That’s what we are working toward.”
Jowayne Laidley scored his team-leading eighth goal of the season in the third minute Wednesday, and Darton was in control the rest of the way. Palumbo scored the next three goals, starting with a through ball he punched in with 30:03 left in the first half. He then found the back of the net twice in 40 seconds in the final minutes of the half, handing the Cavs a 4-0 lead and giving himself some much-needed confidence.
“It was more relief, because I hadn’t been able to score in the past two games,” said Palumbo, who has five goals and three assists this year. “It was nice to get some goals and get that weight off my shoulders.”
Laidley knew his fellow forward wouldn’t stay cold for long.
“I told him he had it in him,” Laidley said. “He just kept working. It’s all about the hard work.”
Darton went up 5-0 at halftime after an own goal from Thomasville as time expired before the half, and Darton’s Jorge Chirinos put an exclamation point on the victory with a goal off an Alejandro Garcia assist with 38:31 left in the second half. Garcia and Chirinos each finished with two assists, and Troy Tucker had one.
Darton plays again Saturday at Jefferson College and has just two home games remaining this season — Oct. 6 vs. Georgia Perimeter and Oct. 8 vs. Georgia Military College.
DARTON WOMEN 5, ABAC 2: The Lady Cavs bounced back from a loss earlier in the week to Georgia Perimeter with a Region XVII victory Wednesday at ABAC.
Darton jumped out to a 4-0 lead and dominated for much of the contest before allowing two late goals to ABAC, which came into the game with one of the best records in the region (8-3).
“It was a conference game I knew (ABAC) was up for. We played very well and executed very well for about 75 minutes,” Darton coach Ken Veilands said. “Then we got a little bit lackadaisical and showed some immaturity in the fact that we need to finish a game. We can’t just sit back and think it’s over. But we are growing. One day at a time.”
Darton, which led 3-0 at halftime, was led by Stephanie Anes, who scored two goals. Megan Gladden, Kimberly Treutel and Shenika Williams also scored in a game where Darton outshot ABAC, 28-4.
Darton is now 5-5 overall and 5-3 in the region and plays again Tuesday at South Georgia College.