By Carey Phillips
Asheville handed Smoky Mountain its first loss of the soccer season, 2-1, Sept. 7 in non-conference action at Asheville.
Amani Holder scored what proved to be the winning goal in the 71st minute. After a hand ball near midfield, Marshall Heilie made a long free kick to Holder.
“We left the guy unmarked, and he headed it past the goalkeeper from 5 yards,” Coach Stephen Brown said.
The Cougars held a 23-8 advantage in shots. Carson Seagraves made 13 saves for the Mustangs, and Asheville’s A.J. Flowe had three.
“On paper it looks like they dominated, but it was a pretty even game,” Brown said. “They created more chances than we did, but we had our opportunities too.”
The Cougars led 1-0 at halftime on Asher Garcia’s rebound shot in the 24th minute.
SM tied it 1-1 when Billy Ramirez scored with an assist from Mitchell Russotti in the 51st minute.
“Mitchell made a heck of a play,” Brown said. “He dribbled between two defenders and laid it off across to Billy, who buried it from about 8 yards out.
“There were ebbs and flows of the game,” Brown said. “It was very physical. We don’t believe in moral victories, but at the end of the day we fought hard and were in it against one of the top 4-A teams around.”
Asheville won the JV game 7-0 dropping the Mustangs to 22-2. The Cougars had a 23-4 advantage in shots. SM’s Mathias Saunooke had nine saves.
“Asheville is a proficient team,” Coach Abby Buenting said. “The combination of their skill level and our player absences proved to be a challenge. We will use this opportunity to improve our growth and development.”