Scott Guinn has complete confidence in all of his players, but the Richmond Academy soccer coach admits being concerned with three of his starters out of the lineup.
Facing Region 3-AAA foe Harlem for the second time this season at Richmond Academy on Friday, the Musketeers rested on the shoulders of their defense to blank the Bulldogs 4-0.
The Musketeers (9-0-3), ranked No. 2 in the state in Class AAA, have yet to allow a goal in region play this season. ARC stopped Harlem 3-0 in the first meeting.
Guinn was doubtful about whom would step up to fill the absence of senior salutatorian JT Batson, who was interviewing for a scholarship at Georgia Tech.
Freshmen Havird Usry and Ben Moss, also starters, were both on a field trip.
"You can't argue when you lose players to academics," Guinn said. "We've been playing hard all season. Not allowing a goal is a matter of respect for these guys now. I was a little concerned with some starters out, but we've been able to play without key players all year."
The Musketeers had to play without forward Kevin Mack in the first seven games of the season since the senior was playing in the state playoffs with the basketball team.
Against Harlem, Mack decided to step up his play, scoring two goals to lead the offensive attack.
"I'm not happy that basketball season ended early, but we were definitely happy to get Kevin," Guinn said. "He's been a great scoring force."
After a rugged start for both teams, Mack took a field-length pass from goal tender Joe Hall, dribbled ahead of the Bulldogs defenders and found himself one-on-one with goalkeeper Adam Nelson. The senior dribbled right before drilling a shot to the opposite post, finding the back of the net with 28:15 eft in the half.
With time running down to intermission, Harlem goalkeeper Chris Gram deflected a shot on goal directly back to Daniel Stewart, who quickly gathered the rebound and fired a shot past a lunging Gram to push the lead to two goals heading into the half.
Mack gave the Musketeers a commanding 3-0 lead with 11:58 left when he got loose for a one-on-one battle with Gram. The senior drew Gram out before launching a shot over his outstretched arms.
"I knew I had to step it up with JT being out," Mack said. "But we weren't worried. We have a pretty solid team."
The victory sets up a highly anticipated matchup against Aquinas on Monday at 7 p.m. Aquinas is ranked No. 2 in Class AA, giving Guinn something to think about over the weekend.
"You don't set it up any better than that," he said. "This was a good game to help get ready for that. Harlem has played us gritty in two games. You don't look over them. But Aquinas, that'll be tough."
Goals: ARC-Kevin Mack 2, Daniel Stewart, Blaze Durant. Goalkeepers: ARC-Joe Hall (10 saves); Harlem-Adam Nelson (6 saves), Chris Gram (5 saves). Records: ARC 9-0-3.Next game:ARC at Aquinas, Monday, 7 p.m.
Reach Patrick Green at (706) 724-0851.