DIXON – One pivotal bounce of the ball was the difference between the Dixon and Belvidere North boys soccer teams on Monday night.
Unfortunately for the Dukes, that bounce went the Blue Thunder’s way.
Alexis Garcia, a junior forward for North, scored the lone goal in the 55th minute of play with the aid of a fortuitous bounce, and it stood up on the pitch at Sauk Valley Community College.
The play started innocently enough, off a long punt from the North goalie. It made its way to Garcia, who maneuvered his way into position for a one-on-one with Dukes’ keeper Ryan Pitzer.
A shot toward the left side of the goal glanced off Pitzer’s mitts and into the net.
“It was off of a goalie’s punt, and when it bounced, the opposite player was running toward me,” Garcia said. “I managed to flick it over him, and from there I just out-ran the defense before cutting back and shooting. Luckily it went in.”
It was Garcia’s fifth goal of the season. The Blue Thunder had the better of the chances between the two sides, with junior midfielder Aidan Westerburg hitting two posts and a crossbar, but none found their way home.
“It was just unlucky for him,” North coach Rick Mateus said, “but he does have a great shot.”
North (4-2-2) kept the Dukes (5-5) in check for most of the game, with the main exception being a breakaway chance for junior forward Kade Fulton with about 8 minutes left in the first half. His shot went just left of the goal, however.
Mateus was pleased with his defense, especially a pair of first-year starters in sophomore Trent Mihalovits and junior Raif Ramdass.
“Our defense all year has been stepping up big-time,” Mateus said. “It’s one of my biggest surprises because we lost two really good players from last year’s team. They stepped up and shut down Dixon’s offense.”
Dixon’s defense was also stout, except for on Garcia’s goal, and Pitzer made a host of spectacular saves to keep his team in it. Despite the loss, DHS coach Josh Brigl termed it a “really good game for us.”
“We know they were a really quality opponent on our schedule and we wanted to give them a good fight,” Brigl said. “Kade got a breakaway, we had a couple of opportunities in the second half, but they snuck one in and we didn’t.
“We’re pleased with how well we played. We’ve come a long way. We kind of had a rocky start to the season, and to play an opponent that’s this skilled this tightly, we’re headed in the right direction.”