Railsplitters settle for draw against visiting Lee
HARROGATE, Tenn. — Film can only say so much.
Helio D’Anna knew Lee University was going to be a tough opponent, especially after its 1-1 start to the season, but even in his 15-year stint as head coach prior to this year, he hadn’t faced the Flames.
That in-state stat changed Wednesday and his perspective of Lee only grew larger after the Flames took his Railsplitters to a double-overtime draw, 1-1, at the LMU Soccer Complex.
“Judging by the first two games that they played, yes,” said D’Anna of Lee being a tough team,” but we haven’t played them in so many years I couldn’t tell you. But now after playing them, yeah, they’ll be one of the top teams in GSC.”
The Flames (1-1-1) added incentive to D’Anna’s praise after a scoreless first half by breaking the egg on the scoreboard first. It was in the 74th minute that Matt Chartier got past goalkeeper Caleb Cothrin, in the left of the box, before passing across to Jared McWhorter, who scored the go-ahead goal.
The Railsplitters (1-0-1) weren’t fazed for too long, however, as Rodrigo Aguiar and Edwin Vaas teamed up for an assist to Christoph Willemsen just two minutes later. The senior defenseman took the pass, heading it into the net for the equalizing goal at the 76th-minute mark.
It’s plays like that, just after the opponent took the lead, in which leave D’Anna without any worry in a draw.
“It builds momentum and it builds confidence because sometimes you aren’t playing the best,” he said, but you find a way and dig deep. Later on, they are going to remember this. I’m happy. I mean I wish we would have won, but I’m happy.”
The longtime coach was also thrilled with the way four players — MJ Sheriff, Alan Brandao, Edwin Vaas and Julio Neto — stepped up in the absence of captain Felipe Machado, who D’Anna said is just day-to-day with a minor setback.
“Every player that is not there will always be missed,” D’Anna said. “Truth being said, I’m tickled to death with some of the people that stepped up for him. Yeah, we missed the captain, but we showed we can do good things without him, too.”
Another player that made a huge impression was the senior Willemsen, who scored LMU’s lone goal — while having two of the team’s six shots on goal — and had a game-changing defensive save in the 19th minute.
Willemsen, a preseason All-SAC second team member, hustled after Samaan Williams’ shot went past the goalkeeper and was inches from going in before he kicked it out of play.
“(Chris) is another captain. We have so much leadership coming out of everybody,” D’Anna said. “Chris is special because he’s mature and a calming influence. He’s always calming everybody and he’s steady. You can count on him.”
The two squads had 15 shots apiece, while Lee had five on goal compared to LMU’s six.
Now after a draw, the Railsplitters will travel to a highly-touted region team in Young Harris Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. start.
“We have to go one game at a time,” D’Anna said. “We have a game against the No. 1 team in the region Saturday. We’ll find out pretty quick where we are.”