Needing to replace its top three scorers from last season, Denison found plenty of candidates willing to take on the responsibility in its season-opener.
Six Yellow Jackets had goals in Denison’s 6-1 victory against Gainesville at Munson Stadium in the quarterfinals of the Varsity Cup. The Jackets will face Rockwall, which beat North Lamar 7-0, at 7 p.m. tonight for a berth in Saturday’s final. Gainesville takes on North Lamar in the consolation bracket today at 5 p.m.
“It’s good to see those guys execute when given the opportunities,” Denison head coach Scotty Voight said. “We tried to create opportunities for our midfielders. We have some speed on the outside.”
The Jackets had the lead less than seven minutes into the match when Marcos Sauceda took a touch pass from Caleb Norman on the left side and bent a shot into the far corner.
But the advantage didn’t last for long as Gainesville tied things up on a goal from right in front not two minutes later.
“We knew coming in they were going to be pretty solid. They were going to have some chances like that,” Voight said. “It was nice to see us come back from that. We didn’t get our heads down.”
Outside of that one defensive miscue, Denison didn’t allow the Leopards a good scoring chance until the final minutes. Jacob Garber, Drew Anderson and Garrett Hestand limited Gainesville to long shots that the duo of Kaleb Rice and Michael Moran didn’t have to worry too much about.
“We’ll let them have that all day,” Voight said. “Our guys played well in the midfield and the back in certain spots on the field to keep them from getting the ball through.”
With just under 25 minutes remaining in the first half, Norman put Denison ahead to stay when he scored off a free kick from Hayden Cottingame. The Leopards had a chance to tie on a free kick of their own at about the 15-minute mark but the Jacket wall blocked the attempt.
In an ensuing span of six minutes the Jackets built a 4-1 advantage when Brandt Krasovic scored in front by way of Cottingame and Manny Mandujano had a clear run off a deflection in the box and blasted it home.
“Our midfield played well,” Voight said. “(Gainesville) tried to put pressure on the backs and we handled it well.”
Jake Trotter scored early in the second half when Gainesville couldn’t clear near the top of the box and Orlando Macedo converted a penalty kick after being tripped from behind with 22:22 remaining.
Denison controlled much of the play in Gainesville’s end — holding a 9-1 advantage on corner kicks — until the Leopards made a push in the last three minutes. Moran kept his ledger clean with a three saves in that span, including a diving save to his right on a point-blank shot with 1:46 showing.