ALBANY — Here’s a question. What do Mitch Leigh and Joe Darion have in common with Tom Fauber, Alexander girls’ soccer head coach.
Well, Mitch and Joe penned a recognizable tune from their Broadway hit “Man of La Mancha” that Fauber may have been crooning to his team prior to the Spartans tilt with the unbeaten Lady Warriors of Warren on Tuesday.
On paper, and at first look, the Warriors were a more mature team both physically and chronologically. But the pesky Spartans were not intimidated and established that fact early and often. In the first minute of play, Amora Albano charged through the field and offered the first shot of the match. It was wide but the die was cast for the rest of the seventy-nine minutes as the youngish Spartans would challenge every play in every possession.
Applying pressure that the Warriors may not have expected for a team on a four-game losing skein, the home girls were generating the better offensive chances. The next best opportunity also came within the first ten minutes. Junior Jenelle Fauber worked herself behind the defense and drove a cross in front of the goal towards an onrushing Albano. The connection just missed and Warren’s defense dodged the danger.
For their part, the Warriors were able to send a few long distance attempts towards Marlee Grinstead but the sure-handed junior easily corralled anything near her goal. The best chance came when a fifteen yard try from substitute Mia Turner hit the crossbar midway through the period.
About a minute later, Albano made a determined run down the right side of the defense from forty yards out. Outrunning all defenders, she sliced into a shooting position and powered a shot into the far left corner past goaltender Millie Ryan. Against all observable indicators, the Spartans had a 1-0 lead. And that lead held for the remainder of the half with the defense doing a shutdown on the Warriors, allowing only four shots through near Grinstead.
“Before the game, I told our team to get us out of the first half with either a tie or no goals and get us into the second half with a chance,” Fauber said. “But that one goal lead was extra sweet.”
The second forty was almost a reprise of the first. There were battles all over the pitch and the Spartans were not only holding their own, but winning the majority. Offensively, Albano and Alexis Queen were forcing the play to the defenders.
At the midway point of the half, the lead was almost doubled off some good combinations. Albano twisted the defense once again on the right side and send a lead to Fauber who blasted a ball to goal. Ryan fought the shot and was able to smother it with some difficulty. A few minutes later, Leah Esselburn dashed through the defense but her attempt slid wide of the post.
The offense continued to work. Daryn Hoffer forced Ryan into a tough save off a free kick and Albano nearly tagged the strings for her second marker. Warren could not solve the Spartan defense throughout the half and did not manage an effective shot on goal.
As the game moved into the final minutes, Alexander executed good game management to protect the 1-0 lead. Then the clock ran to zero, the celebration erupted, the losing streak was over, and the Warriors lost their first of the year.
“This is probably the first game where we battled across the board, everybody did what they had to do and what they were supposed to do. We got good minutes all around and held our own against an experienced, physical team. And, held them scoreless.”
Now 5-4, Alexander will have a few days off before they host Gallia Academy on Tuesday. And the song reference was, of course, “The Quest”, most commonly known as “The Impossible Dream”.
For the Spartans on Tuesday, it wasn’t impossible but only seemed improbable.
Alex 1 0 1
Warren 0 0 0
Alex Am Albano 1st 19:30 1-0