The Viera High boys soccer team is on a mission to get back to the final four.
But the Hawks got a stark reminder Monday night that the road back to the state semifinals is long, arduous … and not guaranteed.
As smoothly as things went for the Hawks in their season opener against Merritt Island, Monday night’s showdown against the host Melbourne Bulldogs showed Viera has some things to smooth out in this young season.
Melbourne dominated the first half and then scored with just over six minutes remaining to hand Viera (2-1-1) its first lost of the season, 2-1, at Tom McIntyre Stadium.
“It’s a tough place to come to,” Viera coach Nick Robinson said. “We’ve got a tough schedule this year with the amount of away games this year. That’s not an excuse, but at the same time, it’s going to allow us to know where we’re at early on.
“For how good we were in that first 60 minutes against Merritt Island, it shows how good we can be. But for the first 40 minutes today, it also shows how inconsistent we are at this stage of the season, which is rightly so.
“We’ve got some new additions. Guys are not going to find their chemistry immediately. But we want these tougher games to see what our character’s like in tough moments. … For me, the positive out of it is, yeah, it’s a loss, but it’s a good character-building first three games so we know where we’re at.”
Games between the Bulldogs and Hawks are always intense and physical and Monday night was no exception as the teams combined for three yellow cards and some big hits.
Melbourne (1-1) looked to push the ball upfield quickly and seemed to be in control for much of the first half, scoring in the 28th minute to take a 1-0 lead.
Viera had several chances to score – including a header that went just over the bar – but couldn’t get past some solid play in goal by the Melbourne keeper.
The Hawks were much more aggressive at the start of the second half, getting a pair of scoring chances in the first few minutes. Finally, a corner kick led to a scramble in front of the net and Viera’s Andrew Bennett found the back of the net six minutes into the second half and the game was tied 1-1.
Both teams had their chances to move in front, but neither team could break through and Viera’s Alvey Kaufman came up with a couple of nice stops.
Finally, less than seven minutes to play, the Bulldogs countered a Viera free kick and quickly moved up the field. The Hawks weren’t able to clear the ball and the Bulldogs added the go-ahead goal with 6:39 remaining.
“Melbourne played well tonight,” Robinson said. “They came out and they fought. To be fair, they out-competed us for the first 40 minutes. I’d by lying if I said they didn’t.”
The good news for the Hawks is they will likely see the Bulldogs again in the district finals, which are scheduled to be held at Viera, and they won’t have to wait long for a chance to get back in the win column.
Viera is scheduled to play at Sebastian River tonight at 7.