The Ashley soccer team continued its run through Mideastern Conference opponents on Tuesday night as the Screaming Eagles took advantage of early opportunities and solidified the result with a strong second half to defeat Laney 4-1 to extend their unbeaten streak to 16 straight games.
“We just love to play,” said Ashley Coach Greg Marinich. “We know we’re going to get everyone’s best shot and the best part of this team is that we kept our composure, stayed patient and knew it would eventually come.”
Duenis Avila tallied twice, while Josh Barnello and Espin-Gilbert Jennings each found the back of the net for the Screaming Eagles, who improved to 8-0 atop the division and 16-0 overall.
Both sides were hesitant off the opening whistle, with Wesley Nelson testing the Ashley defense early until Dominique Toone found possession just across midfield and played a through ball for Barnello. With a Bucs’ defender having trouble controlling play, Barnello beat the final man and fired a right-footed strike past keeper Owen Platt for the 1-0 advantage in the 16th minute.
The Screaming Eagles found their groove after the goal and nearly upped their lead 60 seconds later when Avila connected with the crossbar, but the junior striker followed his scoring chance with a big effort at the midway point of the first half. His hustle towards the top of the 18-yard box caused a communication issue between Laney’s defense and goaltender and Avila secured the 2-0 cushion with an easy put-away on the open frame.
“Duenis brings a ton of speed to the pitch and has another gear,” Marinich added. “I think other teams underestimate his ability and he oftentimes makes them pay for that.”
With their backs against the wall, the Bucs closed the deficit just before break when Nelson put Laney on the board as he split a pair of defenders and buried a shot from right-to-left to seize momentum.
“You have to give your hat’s off to Laney,” said Marinich. “They’re a well-coached team and have a lot of talent. We needed to keep our foot on the gas pedal after going up by two and thought we did that in the second half.”
The Bucs continued to control possession over the first 10 minutes of the second period, but Wally Avila hooked up with his brother to put Ashley in front 3-1 after navigating the midfield and playing a beautiful ball to Duenis Avila, who went five-hole in the 55th minute to regain a two-goal edge.
Evan Laverick contributed with a huge game in the defense, while Jennings added the final score of the night in the waning minutes of the match on a rebound, put back off a shot from Josh Chapman.
“Evan is our steady eddy in the back,” Marinich said. “He brings a ton of experience and maturity to the field. We have a ton of talent at a lot of different positions and if we continue to play our game, I like our chances moving forward.”
With four matches to play in the regular season, the Screaming Eagles maintain a one-game lead over Hoggard for first place in conference. Ashley returns to the pitch at South Brunswick on Thursday, Oct. 15. Laney dropped to 4-3 in league play and 10-3-3 overall. The Bucs look to get back in the win column on Thursday against Hoggard.