CLOVER — A pair of second-half goals by Northwestern strikers Julian Welborn and Bailey Woolley Thursday night sealed a 2-0 victory over Clover.
Welborn and Woolley combined for the quick scores despite a stout Clover defense that stood strong but couldn’t hold for a full 80 minutes. With the 2-0 loss, the Blue Eagles are now ranked fourth in their region – the Trojans, ranked third in the state, are flying high at the top of Region 3-AAAA.
“Give Clover and (head coach) Graham (Stafford) a ton of credit,” said Northwestern coach Dom Wren after the game. “He’s a first class coach and what a fantastic game this was. It was like an ACC basketball game for a while, back and forth.”
The Trojans (11-1-2, 8-1 in region) gave Clover a full court press from the outset, peppering the Clover goal with chances courtesy of Wren’s strike force. Woolley had to wait just 20 minutes into the first half for a golden opportunity to break the deadlock – his double attempt from 10 yards out found only a defender’s midriff and the wrong side of the post. Ten minutes later, Trojan Alan Taylerson played an inch-perfect pass inside the Clover box for Welborn, but Blue Eagle goalkeeper Robert Schreiner came out to swat the attempt away.
Stafford, who watched his team (5-5) flail at Northwestern in a 7-0 loss last month, inspired a renewed fight back in his players in the second half. A cross-come-shot by Alpizar-Ramos Fernando stung the palms of Trojan goalkeeper Cody Jones, but no other Clover teammate could get their foot to the rebound.
“Northwestern has a great offense, but we went toe to toe with them,” Stafford said. “I’m delighted with the passion, the fight, the intangibles. I can put them in a formation, but you can’t teach heart.”
With a brilliant individual effort, junior Woolley broke the hearts of a vocal Blue Eagle crowd in the 68th minute. The midfielder danced through the feet of several Clover defenders on the 18-yard box before unleashing a low rocket strike past the despairing arms of Schreiner.
Five minutes later, Northwestern doubled the advantage. Welborn’s 25-yard free kick squeaked through a four-man Clover wall and into the net before any defender could get a touch.
“With a game like this, it either takes a bit of quality or a bit of luck,” Wren said. “Bailey’s like a mini little battering ram. Big time players step up in big time games.”
Clover valiantly attacked for the remaining six minutes, but Wren’s defense closed out all chances to earn the valuable shutout.
“I thought the goals they scored were a little weak and that’s unfortunate when you have a game with as few mistakes as there were today. It’s a very competitive region and I think we’ve done well.”
The Blue Eagles are back in action today Friday 5:30 p.m. at Indian Land. Northwestern will play Lancaster at home on April 21.
Shots: Northwestern 13, Clover 6
Saves: Northwestern 5, Clover 3
Corners: Northwestern 2, Clover 3
YC: 1, Northwestern Manny Lorazo (dangerous tackle)
NORTHWESTERN Goal: 68th min- Bailey Woolley
NORTHWESTERN Goal: 73rd min- Julian Welbo