The expectations for the Stanhope Elmore boys soccer team were always set higher than just a section title but that did not take anything away from Saturday’s road win. The Mustangs finished play in Class 6A Section 6 with a 4-0-0 record after a 6-0 win at Wetumpka over the weekend.
With the victory, Stanhope improved to 12-2-2 on the season and rebounded from a 3-1 loss to Homewood on Thursday night. The Mustangs clinched a home game in the first round of the playoffs but coach Johanna Angelo is looking for more from her team.
“I was looking for consistency,” Angelo said. “We want to play our game regardless of the competition. I still don’t think we’re playing at the level I want for as long as I want to every game.”
In the first matchup with Wetumpka, Stanhope held a 1-0 lead at the half but Angelo was disappointed with the play. While the team’s play was better in the second meeting, the Mustangs still held only a 1-0 lead as the clock ticked down on the first 40 minutes.
With under a minute to go in the first half, Cristo Rocha capitalized on a loose ball inside of the box. Rocha directed the ball toward the net and a key deflection took it into the bottom left corner to put the Mustangs ahead 2-0.
“Right before the half, I think that fluke goal kind of took away the momentum from us and what we wanted to do,” Wetumpka coach Desmond Knight said. “With a young team, it’s tough to get through that adversity sometimes.”
If the second goal did not put Wetumpka away for good, the third goal certainly did. Just 22 seconds after Rocha’s goal, Michol Torres grabbed his second goal of the game to put Stanhope ahead 3-0 at the break.
“I was probably less angry and it looked better,” Angelo said. “Getting that third one on the heels of the second one did show some more drive. I need them to be playing that way regardless of the competition though. That’s the difference between a good team and a great team.”
In the second half, Stanhope continued to dominate possession and had three corner kicks in the first three minutes. The Mustangs added to their lead when Rocha assisted on a goal by Romeo Perez in the 48th minute.
Rocha was back at it less than five minutes later, connecting with a corner kick from Perez and putting the ball in the net with a volley from 6 yards out. Stanhope got its sixth and final goal of the game in the 71st minute when Freddy Patton cut through three defenders in the box before finishing a shot in the bottom left corner.
“We wanted to focus on us but someone is always at the top of the hill and someone’s at the bottom,” Knight said. “They are where we want to be and we’re working on climbing our way up. We’re trying to get these guys to play up to a higher level of competition.”
While Stanhope awaits its first-round playoff opponent, the Mustangs have three games remaining on the regular season schedule. While the opponents have been far from easy this season, Angelo believes it setting up the Mustangs for a run at the state title.
“My schedule is a little mean,” Angelo said. “It’s set up to prepare us as much as possible for the playoffs. We don’t need to fix any major problems but we need to practice what we know how to do until we’re doing it 80 minutes a game.”
Wetumpka has two more regular season games remaining but the key will be Friday’s trip to Calera where a playoff spot will be on the line. The Indians need a two-goal victory to win the final tiebreaker against Calera but their eyes are still on the postseason.
“This is more mental than anything else,” Knight said. “At this point in the season, you’re not going to be making anyone faster or getting anyone in better shape. We want to work on making sure we know our strategy and being aware of the space on the field.”