Darton sophomore Alejandro Garcia scores one of the Cavs’ six goals Wednesday against Thomas University’s reserve team. (Staff photo: John Millikan)
ALBANY — In his 10 years as a college soccer coach, Darton’s Bart Sasnett said he had never seen a group of players as non-chalant and disinterested as his Cavs were during halftime of Wednesday’s game against Thomas University’s reserve team.
Sasnett was blunt with his players as they walked off the field after the first half with a 2-0 lead.
“He said we looked like zombies,” Darton forward Darwin Espinal said. “It was a good way to put it. We were all kind of slow and not playing how we were supposed to play.”
The nationally-ranked No. 4 Cavs snapped out of their daze in a hurry in the second half, scoring four goals in the first 28 minutes — including three in a span of less than three minutes — to cruise to a 6-0 victory. It was Darton’s third win in a row and second against the Nighthawks this season and improved the Cavs record to 6-1 heading into Saturday’s game against USC-Salkahatchie in Allendale, S.C.
Espinal was one of six Cavs to score in the blowout, although it took Darton nearly 65 minutes to find its stride against an overmatched Thomas team.
“I told the guys to be patient and that at some time goals would come,” Sasnett said when asked what he told his team at halftime. “We just got lulled to sleep in the first half. Finally we came alive. The second half they played a lot tougher, a lot harder and with more urgency and intensity.”
In the second half, the Cavs looked like a group ready to challenge for a fourth straight Region XVII title and a team with the talent to reach the NJCAA national touranment for the fourth year in a row. Espinal, Jorge Chirinos, Alejandro Garcia, Matheus Ayrolla, John Labrador and Azimi Marwan all scored in the team’s most balanced scoring game of the season.
“Everybody put in a good effort and fought hard in the second half,” Sasnett said. “We missed some good chances in the first but nailed them in the second.”
Darton’s first opportunity to score came seven minutes into the game when Espinal, a freshman from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., drew a penalty in the box but had his penalty kick stopped by Thomas goalkeeper Edward Oberschlake. It was a play that set the tone for the first 45 minutes as the Cavs missed out on several scoring opportunities — including an Espinal shot later in the half that hit the left post and was inches away from spinning into the right side of the net before skidding out of bounds.
“It happens,” said Espinal, shrugging off what would have been his nation-leading 13th goal of the season.
Garcia and Chirinos each scored in the final 16 minutes of the first half to give the Cavs a 2-0 lead, and then Labrador found the net 10 minutes into the second half to put Darton ahead 3-0. Espinal finally got his goal with 20:30 left in the game, sparking a rally of three goals in 2:47 to put the game away.
“We had a lot of opportunities in the first half. We didn’t get to put away all of our goals, so that had an effect on us,” sophomore center back Theodore Brown said. “We were kind of upset about not getting our goals put away, but we got into a different mood in the second half and put it away.”
LADY CAVS ROLL, TOO: The Darton women’s soccer team played one of its best games of the season late Tuesday, easing to a 6-0 win against Gordon College to improve to 8-0 to start the season.
The Lady Cavs also moved up to No. 5 in the national rankings on Wednesday, jumping all the way into the Top 20 poll after being unranked the week before. The newest rankings set up a matchup between Darton and No. 13 Georgia Perimeter on Friday, which could easily be a preview of the Region XVII championship in early November.
“We are going to use that as motivation going into our game on Friday,” Darton women’s coach Ken Veilands said about his team’s No. 5 ranking. “We realize it’s going to be a big matchup, and we want to prove and believe that we are where we should be.”
On Tuesday, three players — Stephanie Anes, Brianna Lemerise and Lyana Perez — each scored two goals, while Lemerise and Chevelle Lopez both had two assists and Perez dished out one assist.
Perez is now third in the nation in goals scored (18) and scoring (43 points).