The Manning Monarch soccer team seized its first victory in school history Friday after traveling to Darlington, beating the Falcons 2-1 in the final seconds of stoppage time. Prior to the victory, the Monarchs had lost a consecutive 15 games over two seasons.
“This win - I can’t even put into words how wonderful it felt,” coach Elizabeth Mills said. “It was as if a huge weight had been lifted from our chests. I almost forgot how much fun it was.”
The Monarchs and Falcons were at a standstill for much of the match with neither team finding much room offensively for the majority of the game, but in the 61st minute, senior Shawn Harvin was tripped in front of the goal by an opposing Darlington player, awarding the Monarchs with their first and only penalty kick of the match. Junior Esquivel took the kick and buried into the back of the net, giving the Monarchs a 1-0 lead.
It looked as if Manning had sealed their first victory as the clock hit stoppage time; all the Monarchs had to do was hold off the Falcons for another 3 minutes, but in the 81st minute, Darlington finally answered, scoring on a breakaway goal and equalizing the score at 1-1.
But the Monarchs refused to be denied victory. On their next possession, Manning put on an excellent display of ball control and teamwork as they stormed up the field with just a minute left in the game. Alejandro Aguirre passed to Junior out of the back, who then played the long ball to first year standout and senior Jose Zuniga.
Zuniga sprinted past the defense and snuck a low driving shot just inside the post with 10 seconds left to play. The Monarchs finally tasted victory.
“It took such long time ,” team captain Colie Lee said. “We really didn’t say much when we won. We just did a lot of running in circles and screaming. I really can’t put it into words. It was unbelievable.”
Perhaps one of the biggest factors for the Monarchs this time around was newcomer Darien Felder, senior, stepping up at goalie. In a bout against Hartsville earlier this season, Lee, who originally played goalie, suffered a severe concussion and was forced to play elsewhere, leaving the position wide open. Felder had never played soccer prior to this season but thrived at his new position.
“Darien has simply been a blessing for us in goal,” coach Mills said. “He wasn’t even on our radar at the beginning of the season, but we stuck him back there one day at practice, and it just clicked for him. He still has so much to learn about the goalkeeper position, but he is a natural back there. We wouldn’t have stood a chance against Darlington if it wasn’t for his stellar play.”
The Monarchs will close their season at home this Friday against Darlington at 6:30 p.m.