By Sam Wilson

It took 11 games, but the Ellicottville boys soccer team connected on a corner kick and the result looked worth the wait.

Holding onto a 1-0 lead late in the first half Monday against Salamanca/Cattaraugus-Little Valley, Ellicottville earned some insurance off the corner kick from Bryce Butler, whos high pass met Mitchell Azcarate in front of the net for a header past the Warriors’ goalkeeper.

“We’ve been doing corner kicks all year long in practice and that’s the first one that we’ve connected in a game,” ECS coach Matt Finn said. “Like some of the kids said on the bench, that was one of the prettiest high school goals we’ve possibly ever seen. Him jumping up, getting it out of the air, hitting it over the goalie, that was sweet.”

Ellicottville took the CCAA East game, 3-0. Adrian deOrbe and Jack Snyder also scored for the Eagles (6-5, 3-2) and Butler had two assists. Jamison Caldwell made three saves for a shutout.

The Eagles flashed some impressive speed in the game, none more than defender Noah Steinbroner, a Section championship sprinter. Finn compared his team to a track and field squad, but not in an ideal way.

“We keep saying that we’re like a relay team, where one guy runs and plays really hard for a little bit while everybody stands and watches, and then it’s a handoff when the next person goes,” Finn said, “and they’ll go really hard, but not together. In particular, the first half, I felt as though we all played together, we’re not a track team, everybody was (playing hard) at the same time.”

While the Eagles got the win, the difference in Monday’s two halves pointed to an inconsistency Finn hopes his team can get over.

“We’re just kind of inconsistent still,” he said. “We have moments where — well, I’d say our first half we were passing the ball well, moving it and everything else and then the second half I felt we were getting back to old habits of just trying to get the ball up the field and just kick it and everything else. So I just told them, we could be the first half team that moved the ball and kicked the ball, I think we could do quite well, but we’ll see.”

Finn said “there’s no doubt” Steinbroner leads his team’s defense. His speed allows him to cover more ground while still stepping up to help the offense.

“He’ll step right up and say that and I think everybody else would too,” Finn said. “He’s definitely the most vociferous but leads by example too. He’ll go get the ball, carry it up and talk to everybody. 

“He’s the fastest guy on the team by far, so he’s giving us some things we haven’t had in the past where he can stay up closer to the offense and still recover and still track most people down, everybody except for a couple kids in this league, I guess, so that has changed the whole makeup of our team, the formation and everything.”

The loss drops Salamanca/C-LV below .500 for the first time since losing its season-opener. Coach Keith Jones hopes his team can restore some confidence late in the year.

“I don’t feel like we’re playing up to our ability,” he said. “We beat a team 4-0, went up 4-0 at the half last week to a team that lost to these guys 2-0, so it’s frustrating. But I think our kids need to have more faith in themselves. There hasn’t been a whole lot of success in the soccer program around here recently, so I think we’ve tasted a little bit (of success), and if the kids start believing, I think they’ll see a little bit more.”

Jarrett Pond made 11 saves for Salamanca/Cattaraugus-Little Valley (6-7, 1-4).

“He’s doing well back there,” Jones said of Pond. “He’s becoming a pretty good leader now towards the end of the season and he’s only going to get better, so I think you’re going to see a lot better things out of him too to come.”