MAPLE RIDGE – A comparatively light week, some much needed rest and practice produced some positive results for the North Dundas District High School (NDDHS) senior boys soccer team.

The Devils entered Fri., May 11 action against St. Joe’s and La Citadelle sitting in eighth place in the 11-team field with a total of five points. Almost a full week off and some actual practice time resulted in a much stronger and cohesive effort for the NDDHS squad despite dropping a 2-0 decision to fourth ranked St. Joes in the first game.

Coach Kevin Bell was pleased with the compete level of his senior squad.

“The guys played really well defensively. We held them scoreless until about the 48th minute of the game and kept them to perimeter shots. We had some opportunities to score, but we just couldn’t quite find the back of the net. It was a good effort,” he said. “They scored their last goal in the final minute, but it was a good, good battle all around.”

Keeper Matthew Roach had another impressive outing even stopping a penalty shot.

Senior Devils keeper Matthew Roach (centre) received congratulations from his teammates for his first clean sheet performance of the season in a 1-0 victory over La Citadelle. He also stopped a penalty shot in a 2-0 loss to St. Joe’s earlier in the day.

“You don’t usually see that very often, but he dove out and stole one from them for sure. He’s been strong all season. He did that for me last year in junior and he hasn’t missed a beat,” said Bell.

The second half of their double header was against a La Citadelle team that had yet to lose a game before the days action began. The Devils weren’t intimidated and played a tight team game that featured crisp passing and a stout defensive stand that handed a frustrated La Citadelle squad a 1-0 defeat.

“Again, we played very well defensively. They had some opportunities, but I felt one-on-one defensively our guys really stepped up their game. There were some times where they could have easily gotten past us, but the guys came back and I liked their overlapping defense as well,” said Bell.

NDDHS got a shutout performance from Roach and the only goal of the game from midfielder Peter Xidias. The stand-out senior controlled the pace of play, distributed the ball well and was constantly a threat to break out. Bell was impressed by Xidias’ long-range strike calling it “a thing of beauty.”

Midfielder Peter Xidias used his skills to effectively distribute the ball during a close 1-0 victory over La Citadelle. Xidias scored the only goal of the game from long-range. Press Photos – Schoch

The goal would stand up as the only marker despite the non-stop waves of attack coming from the La Citadelle side in the second half.

“It was a good defensive battle and I felt the guys played a lot more aggressively in the second half; they were quick to the ball. They attacked us hard and they’re a skilled club. The boys just jammed them up, played physical against them and it was clean too, which is what I like,” said Bell.

The Devils improved play was noticeable and Bell attributed that to simply being able to get some practice time to build some good habits and familiarity.

“They know the system a little better and they’re just more familiar with each other and what their tendencies are. We’ve been working on quick ball movement in practice and knowing where the guy is and who will be looking for that pass. Also, just their touch on the ball. Let’s be honest, in a game you don’t really get a touch on the ball as much as in practice.

Asked to single out a few players that have shown the greatest improvement, the coach gave the entire team credit for raising their level of play.

“Everybody on the team has stepped up since the first game of the season. Better pace and better ball movement from the guys and a better understanding defensively. Some guys who’ve never played soccer before they get watching the ball as opposed to picking up the wide man,” said Bell. “Teams like St. Joes like to attack in numbers and if you can have your outside mids coming back defending against their wingers then that just makes all the difference in the world and that’s what our guys are doing that much better.”

The senior Devils close out their schedule with a double header at home today (Wed., May 16) against CCVS and L’Heritage.