TOWNSHEND -- When one of the top-ranked Division II boys soccer squads comes to pay a visit to a better-than-average Division III team, you can almost predict the outcome by watching the game for a few minutes.
But in Thursday’s matchup, it would take more than a few minutes to determine who was the better team.
Woodstock had to prove they were kings of the hill, and they did, beating Leland & Gray, 1-0, but it was an uphill battle for them, all the way.
"We were expecting a pretty tight game," said Woodstock coach Tom Avellino. "It was."
In typical form, Jacob Sherman wasted no time blowing by defenders and attacking the net to rip a few shots for the Rebels in their opening bids. The guests took deep shots as they were pushed out of the center by L&G’s middy Fraser Query and defender Dylan Jerz. The Woodstock defense returned the favor, but not before Leland & Gray’s Bryce Karg nearly sank a shot just before the break.
A first-half shutout led either team to get out their jitters and go full-throttle in the second.
"We are both really strong teams," said Leland & Gray coach Chris Barton. "Both used their size and skill to their advantage."
Jerz maintained good defense with carefully-timed tackles and deflections as the Wasps swarmed the Rebel goal, and he had help from senior Thacher Winot. In the second half, Winot took three mean shots on goal, including one that was right on track, but couldn’t find its way past a pesky Woodstock defense. In that same half, Query worked the left side, and he also almost found a way in.
The Woodstock goal went to striker Doug Avellino, with the assist from Mason Thompson, at the 25-minute mark. After Thompson crossed it from the corner, it was bounced around by a few green shirts, then it rolled out and Avellino toed it in. "For Thompson to dig it out for us, was something else," noted coach Avellino.
The Rebels kept steady pressure on the Wasps for much of the second, and at the same time, the visitors forced keeper Nicolas Morrow to run ragged in net. The Woodstock goal barely got by him. The sophomore goalie is coming along, said Barton.
"The boys have had a tough schedule lately," said L&G athletic director Marty Testo, as the end was in sight. "But they worked hard out there today, and held their own."
Barton still seemed somewhat pleased with the outcome, considering his boys didn’t give up.
"We had a couple close ones that didn’t find their way in," said Barton. "It looked like it was going to happen, but it didn’t. We’ll keep working at it."
According to Avellino, Woodstock’s schedule has also been a rough ride, playing five contests over the course of nine days.
The 4-6-1 Rebels will play at Hinsdale on Monday.
David Aquino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 802-254-2311, ext. 164.