MONMOUTH – The way the Hall-Dale and Monmouth Academy boys soccer teams were going at it Saturday morning, it appeared it would take a monumental effort to break a scoreless tie 12 minutes into the second half.

Instead it took a fluke.

As senior Hall-Dale defender Quin Stebbins boomed a clearing pass from his own end of the field into the Monmouth end, a collective groan went up from the Mustang bench. Sophomore goalkeeper Bradley Neal had come too far out of his net and the ball carried over his head into the goal.

The 1-0 score stood up, snapping a 10-game win streak for Monmouth (10-2-0) and allowing the Bulldogs (9-0-2) to remain unbeaten.

The goal was the first of the season and only the second ever for Stebbins who recalled scoring his first as a sophomore in a blowout victory.

“I thought it was going over (the goal) the whole time,” Stebbins said. “But lucky bounce, lucky win.”

With three games remaining in the regular season, the win likely puts the Bulldogs into the Mountain Valley Conference championship game Oct. 21 at Thomas College. Barring any upsets, they’ll face MVC Class B opponent Mountain Valley.

“This is huge,” Hall-Dale senior midfielder Ryan Sinclair said “The MVC championship was on the line, who wants to go? Massive”

Most of the game was played between the penalty circles with few scoring chances. Each team took seven shots on goal and defenders made some of the saves.

In the first half, Hall-Dale fullback Alex Guiou stopped a Mustang shot in the goalmouth after keeper Andy Peterson (four saves) was drawn out of position. And in the second, teammate Jett Boyer did the same. Other opportunities went unrewarded.

“There were four opportunities within the six that we felt should have at least been hit at the goal and the kids didn’t get a foot on it,” Monmouth coach Joe Fletcher said. “Good teams will fight their way through it and we’re going to fight our way through this. We’ve worked real hard to put ourselves in a spot to get to that Mountain Valley championship game and now we’ll have to wait for someone else to help us.”

The Bulldogs held a territorial edge in the first half and Neal (five saves) came up with a couple of big stops, the best when he came way out of his goal to stop sophomore striker Tyler Nadeau.

“He’s come up with a lot of big saves this year,” Fletcher said. “He’ll be OK.”

Both teams had late scoring chances. Neal again came way out of his goal to stop freshman Alex Byron and Peterson dove on a loose ball in the goalmouth with six minutes left. Those were isolated instances, though, as the Bulldogs had already retreated into a defensive shell once they got the lead. As he had throughout the game Guiou led the effort.

“Alex I think is one of the best defenders in my 20-some-odd years of coaching,” Hall-Dale coach Andy Haskell said. “He’s probably the best natural defender that I’ve had.”

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