Flurries of action at both ends only produced one goal as Dorman was able to prevail over Clover with a 1-0 victory Tuesday to open the 4A soccer playoffs.
Zikeem Smith’s first-half goal was the lone breakthrough against the outstanding goal-keeping of Dorman’s Gabriel Ward and Clover’s Robert Schreiner. Dorman advances to play Thursday against the winner of Greenwood versus Woodmont.
“Their keeper, my goodness, he made three or four saves that we were all thinking they were in,” Dorman coach Josh Eskew said. “He played very well and Gabe for us, I think that’s 14 or 15 shutouts now for him. And it wasn’t just Gabe it was the guys in the back clearing balls off the line and off the corners and everybody just putting forth the effort to make sure they didn’t get a goal.
“That was the important thing for us, just to hang in there. We knew we were going to get a goal and we’ve been tough to break down and score on. Give credit to Clover who did a great job, they’re very well-coached and had a good game plan coming in and we were able to gut it out and survive.”
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Both goal-keepers made several spectacular saves in addition to getting help from teammates when corner kicks provided scoring opportunities within a cluster of players right in front of the net.
“I think we cleared two off the line that Gabe didn’t really see off a corner and one off a long throw,” Eskew said. “We work on it and at this point in the year all we can do is try to hone ourselves in those situations and make sure we’re as ready as we can be for that kind of barrage.”
Ward made by far the best save of the night with 33:37 remaining in the game after Clover was awarded a free penalty kick from point-blank range directly in front of Dorman’s net. Ward dove completely out-stretched to his left to deflect the ball away and preserve the lead.
“It’s just where you kind of have to guess and I was lucky and guessed right,” Ward said. “I kind of read the player a little bit, read his eyes, and took the right guess and got the big save. We did well defensively, but we can still be better. We managed to keep a clean sheet tonight and that’s what we were going for.
“(Clover) came close with that penalty kick and two saves off the line from my good friend Anand (Mulji). It wasn’t pretty, but we’re happy to be moving on. I’m so happy to get out of here with a hard-fought win. We didn’t play our best, but we put in the work and pulled out the win.”