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Benavides takes center stage for 'Dogs

October 06, 2004|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - As has been the case for much of the season, Nick Benavides was at the heart of everything Martinsburg's boys soccer team accomplished against Hedgesville on Tuesday.

Between assisting Adam Polinik's sliding score in the eighth minute, maintaining possession with plenty of flashy footwork in the offensive end and closing the No. 8 Eagles out with a goal and an assist in the game's closing minutes, Benavides had a busy day in the No. 3 Bulldogs' 4-0 shutout victory.

Benavides didn't wait long to make an impact. Early in the first half, he stole a pass across the middle 40 yards from Hedges-ville's goal, dribbled down the left side and sent a hooking left-footed pass across the goal mouth.

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Sprinting in from the right, Polinik slid and stuck his right foot out just in time to redirect a 12-yard shot past Eagles keeper Adam Eifert into the right side of the goal.

"It was a very good finish," Benavides said. "He stretched his long legs out there. I closed my eyes, heard the crowd and looked up and saw it in the back of the net."

"We lost an assignment and the kid made a great play to slide and get to that ball," Hedgesville coach Chris Ruest said. "It was just a great hustle play."

While Martinsburg (9-1-1) failed to score again before halftime, the ball-handling and passing skills of Benavides and midfielder Will Rouse, among others, kept Martinsburg in control for much of the half.

"In practice we've been doing nothing but keep away, and tonight we were settling and looking for passes and keeping control," Benavides said.

"They started settling it down and looking for passes, and they started wearing down the defense," Bulldogs coach Greg Miller said. "Will played an outstanding game for us. ... Our midfield stepped up for us today."

Hedgesville (7-6) - losers of three straight - was outshot 12-5 in the first half. The Eagles missed on two opportunities to tie, one on an indirect kick leading to a quick shot just over the crossbar, the other when Josh Himic rose up to head Simon Lee-Feuillet's corner kick from the right side past Martinsburg keeper Matt Martin, only to watch it clank off the crossbar near the right corner.

"Right now we feel like there's a lid on the goal, a big window in front of the net," Ruest said. "For some reason, the last couple of games we haven't been able to put the ball in the net. It's frustrating for me as a coach and even more frustrating for the players. I couldn't ask for any more effort out of every kid. They're playing their hearts out."

Hedgesville maintained more of an attack in the second half, but Martinsburg switched from a 2-3-2-3 look to a 4-4-2 allignment - moving forward Joey Borror back on defense - and the Bulldogs never allowed the Eagles a quality look at the goal.

Hedgesville caught a bad break in the 53rd minute when a Martinsburg pass deflected off an Eagle and came right to Rouse, who flicked a quick shot using the outside of his right foot over Eifert and into the top of the goal for a 2-0 lead.

Goals by Benavides in the 77th minute off a Manuel Garcia throw-in abnd by Polinik in the 80th minute off a pass from Benavides on a counterattack sealed the victory.

"If we're down 2-0, I don't care if we lose 8-0, we're going to push forward," Ruest said. "We had eight guys in the offensive end and it opened up the counterattack, but so what?"

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