Illsley’s hat trick paces Patriots in win
STEPHENS CITY — The Shenandoah Valley Christian Academy boys’ soccer team couldn’t have asked for a better start to their season, winning eight of its first nine games, including a seven-game winning streak.
However, with the team stuck in a four-game winless streak and its last win coming on Sept. 20, the start seemed like a distant memory.
Hoping to regain their winning ways, the Patriots looked to rebound against Highland View Academy (Hagerstown Md.), a team they'd already beaten once this season, and looked more like a basketball team in the process.
The Patriots knew they'd be facing a pressing defense near midfield from Highland View and took advantage all afternoon by running fast breaks over and past the defense.
The result was a convincing 5-0 non-conference home victory Tuesday afternoon that gave the Patriots the sweep of the season series.
“We were looking forward to this game because they’re a good team and we needed a big game to get us back on track,” SVCA coach Dustin Wheelock said. “We wanted to stretch them out more and expose some of the gaps, get in behind their defense. They play high and flat so we wanted to get a quick through ball in because we have some good speed up top.
“It’s nice to get a breakaway, we’ll take that any day. Nathanael (Illsley) did a great job putting the ball in the net. Today was nice to get four goals in the first half, that takes a lot of pressure off you in the second half. After getting that first goal we could kind of settle in and hopefully take control of the game and keep the pressure on.”
SVCA (9-4-1) scored the only goal it’d need early on and it was a foreshadowing of things to come.
Illsley, a junior forward, took a gorgeous pass over the top and outraced the Highland View defenders. Facing a one-on-one with the keeper, Illsley easily blasted the first of his three goals to make it 1-0. It was almost a carbon copy of a play just a few minutes earlier, but Illsley got a bit anxious and pulled his shot too far to his left and missed the net.
By the time the first half had reached its midpoint the Patriots had duplicated the same play a handful of times and Illsley was able to connect two more times and had himself a hat trick before the break. It was his second hat trick of the season and fourth of his high school career.
“Very nice, it was a very rough week last week,” Illsley said of the win. “Last time we played them they adjusted in the second half and it kind of shut us down, but this time they stayed in the same defense. Our normal style is possession but they play up so far.
“I’m just glad we won, we knew we had to get back to winning.”
As the three-goal advantage would indicate the Patriots dominated all over the field. Though Highland View had several shots on goal (only two in the second half) they really didn’t have any good scoring opportunities and most of the shots were not real threats of finding the back of the net.
After watching Illsley run the fast break to perfection for much of the first half, SVCA freshman Stephen Bell decided he wanted to get in on the act, and he did it on a breakaway of his own.
Once past the back line of defense Bell found himself one-on-one with the keeper and was able to beat him just inside the post into the far corner of the net for a 4-0 halftime lead.
With a comfortable advantage and several backups in the game for much of the second half the offensive output slowed somewhat for the Patriots. However, they were able to tally a fifth and final goal on what at first appeared was going to be Illsley’s fourth of the game, but his shot was blocked by an HVA defender.
Being in the right place at the right time junior midfieder Austin Stover gathered up the rebound, side-stepped a defender and was able to blast home a shot in a virtually empty net to push the lead to 5-0.
“We still have a little bit of composure to work on in front of the net but today was a good day,” Wheelock said. “We’ve been out playing teams but haven’t been able to get it in the net. In front of the net I think we’ve had some confidence issues so it was nice to kind of put those away.
“The last two games we’ve really picked up the intensity and today, being able to get it in the net, really helps.”