BY AARON PATTERSON
One of the biggest struggles for the Danville Vikings soccer team this season has been finishing.
That struggle, however, seems trivial compared to that of the countless patients who are faced daily with the challenges brought on by breast cancer.
One trait typically shared among those determined to beat the disease is resilience.
While the adversity the Vikings’ have faced this season will never compare, they have realized one similar truth. Any success salvaged from this season will come as a result of resilience, and learning from the lessons of their struggles.
In the Second Annual Kick Cancer game and fundraiser between the Vikings and the Hoopeston Area/Bismarck-Henning Cornjerkers, the two programs joined forces to raise over $2,500 which will be donated to the cause.
It was also a preview of Saturday’s first round regional match, which will be played in Danville. And in a display of their resilience, the Vikings did something they had failed to do on so many occasions this season: Finish. In impressive comeback fashion, the Vikings overcame a two-goal deficit to defeat the Cornjerkers 4-3.
“I think we’re able to finish more chances,” Danville defender DeMarion Hatfield said. “At the beginning of the season, we were hitting the post and missing one-on-ones. Now, when we’re getting the opportunity, we’re finishing and staying strong throughout the game.”
Hatfield assisted on the game-tying goal by Jordan Allen in the 66th minute, and Chase Thurston netted the eventual game-winner in the 74th minute. It was the first time the Vikings led since Luis Rubio’s goal 11:59 into the contest.
Allen’s goal was the second by Danville within 43 seconds in a momentum-shifting series. Gracson Torres pulled Danville to within 3-2 when he slipped a soft shot by HABH goal keeper, Trey Anderson.
The tilt in the Vikings’ favor was simply a matter of making a few adjustments and staying aggressive.
“We were down 3-1 with about 20 minutes left, and we had to turn things around,” Thurston said. “So, we moved up DeMarion from the back and played with only three defenders so we would have more movement up front. Then what we did was we started playing it wide and crossing it in instead of just trying to take it straight down the middle and shoot from 30 yards.”
The tactic worked and gave Danville (4-8-5) its third win in the last 11 days.
“It’s good to beat them because we play them in the regional, but we’re also coming off a good win against Normal West,” Thurston said. “We’re trying to build some momentum going into the postseason.”
That momentum has come as a result of playing more aggressively.
The Vikings had 21 shots on goal against the Cornjerkers, and another 20 that sailed just wide or over the net.
“We would play real strong between the goal boxes, and we couldn’t seem to finish it,” said Danville assistant coach Scott Burgess of the team’s previous struggles. “What we’ve been really working on the last three weeks is just taking more shots, taking more shots, and it seemed to pay off a little more today. By taking more shots, it puts more pressure on the keeper.”
In contrast, Danville’s defense held HABH to a total of eight shots (five on goal, three off).
HABH didn’t gain possession in its offensive zone until four minutes, 36 seconds had ticked off the clock.
“Every time they got the ball, we checked back,” HABH coach John Klaber said. “We were almost scared to go at them. I think that was the big thing. Last year, Danville handled us pretty good and it was just one of those where they got it and we just wanted to back peddle. … Once we started pressing, they started to make some mistakes and we were able to do it. As soon as they pressed, we backed up, and there you go again.”
Following Rubio’s goal, the Cornjerkers (12-7-1) scored three unanswered goals. The first came in the 36th minute by Elijah Yates, assisted by Andrew Samet and Mason Jett. Brennan Crose gave the Cornjerkers the lead early in the second half on an assist from Yates, and Yates added his second goal (14th of the season) on a penalty kick in the 62nd minute.
Anderson, who had been suffering from the flu, was eventually replaced in goal immediately following Danville’s third score. He was replaced by freshman Drake Swinford who, despite giving up the game-winner, made five saves in the final 14 minutes. HABH was also playing without key members who were at a band competition, including defender and captain David Cornelius.
“The most important is the mental aspect that we’re right there, that we can compete,” Klaber said. “It’s anybody’s ballgame. I think that’s big. We’re missing several band kids today, so hopefully we’ll be at 100 percent strength when we play them (in the regional) and just being able to know that we can play with them. It’s anybody’s game. We’ve got to press. We’ve got to go out to play (to win) and not play to not lose.”
The Cornjerkers have one contest remaining and will take on the Mahomet-Seymour Bulldogs on Tuesday in Mahomet. Danville is scheduled to host Champaign Central on Monday for Senior Night.