HARTSVILLE — It’s been tough going early on for both the Hartsville and West Florence high school boys’ soccer teams.
The two squads entered Friday’s matchup at The Cage in search of their first wins of the season, and in the end, it was the Knights who wound up celebrating.
A defensive struggle ended up in a 1-1 tie even after the extra periods, and a shootout was needed. West converted on four of its five attempts for the decisive 4-2 edge.
“The boys played great,” West Florence coach Billy Andrews said. “We stuck together and we hung in there. We spread the field out and won the important balls and the penalty kicks. We persevered.”
The Knights, who improved to 1-3-1, got shootout goals from Robert Spence, Nate Crowe, Jackson Gibson and finally Josh Walton, whose kick sealed the victory.
“We refocused on defense — we played much better defensively than we had in previous games,” Andrews said. “And we were much more focused than in previous games.
“We needed this one and it was good to get it.”
Spence also scored the first goal of the game on a penalty kick for West, who held the lead until just under 30 minutes remaining in the second half.
That’s when Hartsville’s Jakob Thompson drilled a shot past the goalkeeper to knot the game at 1-1.
“We battled all night,” said Red Foxes coach Troy Alexander after his squad fell to 0-5. “We’ve had a lot of injuries, and it was tough conditions tonight, but we were able to battle through them. I saw some good stuff. We had some good combinations, especially in the midfield, and it’s a good learning experience as we kind of get into region play next week.”
Hartsville’s offense registered 11 shots on goal against West Florence goalkeeper Gabe Crowe, but only the one got past in regulation.
“As you coach, you like to see the opportunities there, but at the same time, you’d like to see some of them finish,” Alexander said. “That’s things we’ll continue to work on in practice, and hopefully next time we’ll find a way.”
Thompson made one of Hartsville’s two shots during the shootout with Jon Burr scoring the other that kept the Red Foxes alive at the time, trailing 3-2.
Hartsville goalkeeper John Henderson made eight saves total.