Cats fall despite solid effort

By MARTIN BRYANT | News-Telegram Correspondent

January 23, 2004 -- PINE TREE -- The outcome of Sulphur Springs' Thursday night game did not reflect the play of the Wildcat soccer team as they were blanked by Pine Tree, 2-0. The Cats' loss came in first round action of the Mud Dog Classic at Pine Tree.

SSHS put together its best team effort of the season, but wasn't able to catch any breaks though the Cats outplayed their opponent, said coach Andy Holt who described it as the best game of the year to this point.

"Without a doubt this is the hardest we've played all year," Holt said. "It's tough to lose a game like that but at the same time it's encouraging to see our guys come out and play like they did all night."

They key to the Cats' great play was the production from the midfield and stopper positions. Holt credited the play of Blake Birchfield, Blake Holly and Brent Holly in the midfield and Layne Ashmore at the stopper position.

"I thought our midfield played extremely well tonight," Holt said. "Blake and Brent played really well and Birchfield put forth another strong effort."

The SSHS midfield continually won loose balls and was then able to work the ball up field with short passes.

"Our passing was definitely a key tonight," Holt said. "Anytime you can put together those short passes and keep possession your going put some pressure on their defense and we did that tonight."

Ashmore and Nick Kennon led the way on defense with their intense and consistent play. Ashmore was able to make runs through the Pine Tree midfield before distributing the ball in hopes of creating an offensive chance. While this play created some problems for Pine Tree and SSHS got some early chances, they weren't able to capitalize.

The Cats' play was visibly frustrating the Mud Dogs as they had one player receive two yellow cards for a hard foul. Pine Tree caught a break in the 32nd minute, however, and scored what would be the game winning goal after a Sulphur Springs defender made a play at the ball and fell in his effort. The Mud Dogs added another goal late in the game to make the score 2-0.

Sulphur Springs recorded 15 shots on goal while Pine Tree had 16 shots. Goalkeeper Aaron Ball made nine saves for the Cats in a solid effort.

SSHS (6-4-1) will play Jacksonville today at 6 p.m. in Pine Tree as the second round continues. Jacksonville lost 3-1 to Corsicana, who advances to play Pine Tree tonight. In other Friday action, Greenville will meet Whitehouse while Mount Pleasant is set to play Henderson. The Cats will play their final game of the tournament on Saturday at a time to be determined and district play opens Tuesday at Paris.

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