North Myrtle Beach boys soccer coach Jason Mueller admitted he has a youth-laden team.
But that hasn’t stopped the Chiefs from rising to the occasion.
With a big 2-1 overtime win over Region VII-AAA rival St. James on Wednesday, North Myrtle Beach has now won four straight and Mueller said the squad’s morale is riding high.
“We’re a young team, but we play real hard all over the field and it’s starting to pay off for us,” Mueller said. “We’re gaining confidence.”
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Mueller has just one senior on his roster, Jared Crawford, who said the Chiefs were gunning for the Sharks after suffering a 3-0 loss to them in March.
“That was a tough loss. We wanted revenge,” Crawford said. “This time around, I thought we did really good. We put in good effort and some guys stepped up.”
Perhaps none more so than Simon Sander, who scored what proved to be the game-winning goal in the first overtime period to lift North Myrtle Beach.
“In overtime, we actually tried to slow it down and calm the game down a little bit,” Mueller said. “And [Sander] just made a heck of a shot.”
But first, it was Connor Cabaniss’ goal in the 15th minute that gave the Chiefs a boost early on as they went into halftime with a 1-0 advantage.
St. James knotted the game with a goal on North Myrtle Beach keeper Matthew Wilson – who made eight saves – in the 70th minute, and the teams played to a stalemate until overtime began.
“We got out of our game there at end, in the last 15-20 minutes. We kind of started rushing some things,” Mueller said. “In that situation, you are a little bit worried about the momentum shift but I thought my boys responded well, didn’t drop their heads and continued to play hard.
“I have to give credit to St. James; they pushed the tempo and pushed the pressure on us.”
Meanwhile, the improvement of North Myrtle Beach has been easy to spot and the team is feeling good as they move forward.
“I feel like we get better every game. We’re working hard,” Crawford said. “We have to keep it on the right track, but we have some big games left.”
The Chiefs still have two matches against rival Myrtle Beach, ranked No. 2 in the state for Class AAA, as well as a meeting with both Lake City and Wilson.
North Myrtle Beach also has a rematch set with a pesky Georgetown squad, which has taken down St. James as well. The Chiefs beat Georgetown 4-0 on March 22.
“We still have a long way to go in region play, but this is definitely a big momentum boost for us going forward because St. James is a good, well-coached team,” Mueller said.
And if Wednesday’s win proved anything, it’s that North Myrtle Beach is becoming a force in Region VII-AAA.
“When you’re a young team, you sometimes lack confidence to start off,” Mueller said. “As the season goes on and we keep gaining confidence, I think we’ll be a dangerous team.”