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Rams win Invitational

AHOSKIE – Despite not having a full complement of teams for the tournament field, the third annual Ridgecroft Invitational Soccer Tournament Friday still drew a good crowd of soccer fans who were treated to the host team’s first win of the 2008 season. 

Team captain Hanes Joyner scored three goals, including a pair in the second half, while Ashton Turner and Tyler Hughes scored single goals in the first half, and goalkeeper Ethan Phelps stopped eight shots as the Rams blanked North Pitt High School 5-0 at Mike Bryant Field.

&uot;You always enjoy opening the season with a win,&uot; said Ridgecroft coach Aron Martin. &uot;It was a little disappointing that we didn’t have a full field and had to shorten it to a one-day event, but I think both teams got a lot out of the experience.&uot;

The Invitational was supposed to have a four-team field with play on Friday and Saturday, but two teams cancelled — one on the day of the tournament — and so it became a two-team affair. 

The Rams wasted little time going on the attack against the Panthers. Joyner had two early chances, including an amazing bicycle kick that sailed just above the crossbar, but kept the game scoreless through the first five minutes of play.

Hughes finally cracked the scoring six minutes into the match as he slammed in the Rams’ first goal unassisted from the right side for a 1-0 Ridgecroft lead.

Eight minutes later Joyner got the first goal of what would be a ‘hat-trick’ as he took a crossing pass from the right corner off the foot of Miles Harrell in front of the box and staked the Rams to a 2-0 lead.

A minute and a half later on a breakaway Michael Byrum sent a shot over several Panther defenders that deflected off the left post right to a waiting Turner and the Rams had a 3-0 lead which they took into the break.

North Pitt attacked early in the second half, but Phelps got his hand on a deflection in the first two minutes to maintain the shutout.

Two minutes later, Joyner on a breakaway faked two defenders and sailed in a kick for a 4-0 Rams lead.

Afterward, Martin began to substitute and get some of the younger players some game experience in the August heat, but with eight minutes remaining in the match, Joyner was tripped on a breakaway and awarded a penalty kick.

The senior made the most of the effort as his shot sailed just over the outstretched hands of the Panthers’ keeper into the back of the net for the final score of the day and the Ridgecroft win.

Overall, the Rams outshot North Pitt 19-10.

&uot;We tried to make the field small defensively,&uot; said Martin, &uot;because of their quick passing, then offensively we spread it out to open up some real good holes in the midfield and that left them vulnerable for diagonal balls for good scoring opportunities.

&uot;We put some good things together and it’s early in the season, so they’re still getting their legs under ’em, and they’re only going to get better.  It was a great start for Hanes and he can hurt you in a lot of ways.  The shutout was also a good confidence-builder for Ethan.  They’re both going to be big assets for us this season.&uot;

&uot;It wasn’t just a gimme of five goals,&uot; said Panthers coach Juan Castillo. &uot;The kids played hard, the experience is good, and we’re glad we came to this tournament.&uot;

Ridgecroft travels to Fayetteville today (Tuesday) to take on Village Christian.  They return home to face Community Christian of Wilson on August 26.