WEST PORTSMOUTH — In some ways, tying a conference rival can be somewhat deflating.
But if one took in an SOC II conference match between the Northwest Mohawks and the West Senators, the fans in attendance would have seen two units that showed off plenty of young talent, in addition to improvement, in a competitive and exciting bout that ultimately ended in a 0-0 tie at West High School on Monday evening.
For both Tim Amburgey and Tom Hoggard, the pair felt that the conference affair brought out the best in both programs, who showed plenty of fight — as the pair have all year long — throughout each tick of the 80-minute contest.
“If you like defensive soccer, then you saw plenty of defense (on Monday evening),” Amburgey said. “Both teams had scoring opportunities, but neither one was able to find the back of the net. It was a good, competitive match that featured plenty of great play from both teams. We’re struggling to get the W’s right now, but the girls are still working hard in practices and in matches, and that’s all I can ask for.”
“We have had two very good games here,” Hoggard said. “We had a 1-0 game out there and a 0-0 tie here. Tim (Amburgey) is a very good coach who I think I lot of. He had his team ready to play. We were even the whole game. We couldn’t have played any better, and I believe that the same goes for Northwest.”
Throughout the majority of the first half, both teams showed off that defensive intensity throughout much of the first half, as both units combined for just four shots on goal in the opening half of play. A shot from Northwest’s Sydnie Jenkins — which missed just high of the goal by three inches in the 13th minute of action — proved to be the best opportunity for both units as the defensive efforts from both units kept the score at a 0-0 mark over the first half of play.
“Tom (Hoggard) is doing a good job with West,” Amburgey said of West’s improvement. “We’ve both got young teams. They’ve improved dramatically from the beginning of the season. We’re still hurting. We’ve got a lot of folks who are down with injuries.”
“I try to concentrate on defense,” Hoggard said in response. “Sometimes, it bites you because it limits your chances of scoring when you have more people back.”
However, Northwest proved to have a strong effort in its own right. Throughout the opening moments of the second half, the Lady Mohawks, behind a halftime adjustment that moved Kaley Hamilton to a center midfield position, were able to establish several strong runs at the goal, The strong quartet of Hamilton, Jenkins, Ellie Curtis, and Alexa Throckmorton combined to collect three shots between the 44th to 46th minutes of play off of excellent combination play, but Curtis’ shot missed wide and two additional shots by Hamilton were either saved or missed wide of the goal.
Still, Amburgey was pleased with the performance of the quartet, especially Hamilton and Throckmorton, who, according to the veteran head coach, have come on strong in recent weeks.
“We’ve moved Alexa Throckmorton to the center mid position over the last two games, and going back to the Minford game, I’ve seen her come on pretty strong,” Amburgey said. “I’m pleased with that. Kaley anchored the top of the defense there in the first half, and in the second half, we were trying to make something happen up top a little bit, so I moved her from the top of our diamond in the back to a center mid position, and she was able to get some shots on goal tonight.”
In addition to the progress of the aforementioned pair, the Lady Mohawks also showed signs of well-executed combination plays — an improvement over prior matches during the 2017 season.
“One of our Achilles heels has been set pieces,” Amburgey said. “Tonight, that wasn’t an issue for us.”
West, however, countered with its own solid offensive attack. Over the next 25 minutes of action, the Lady Senators used the strong play of Abby Powell to collect several offensive opportunities through the second half. However, just like West’s defense, the Northwest backline kept the game scoreless by fending off four free kick opportunities from West. The Lady Senators also had three chances from inside the box off of excellent crosses, but could not get a touch on the ball as each the opportunities came and went without a dent on the scoreboard.
Still, Hoggard was satisfied in what he saw — especially in Powell.
“Abby had a great game controlling the midfield,” Hoggard said. “She played really well. It’s going to be hard to replace her next year.”
Overall, the contest represents a quality result that both programs can build on going forward. Northwest will host Waverly at 7 p.m. on Thursday evening while West will take on Minford in a road bout that will commence at the same time and date.
“It was a really well played game,” Hoggard said. “It’s just a shame in high school that you can’t go to penalty kicks, and that it’s only available in postseason play. It would’ve been good to keep on going. Overall, it was a well-played match by both teams.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7