ST. PAULS — Carlos Alcacor’s last-minute goal, assisted by Carter Roberson, lifted the Richmond Senior boys soccer team to a 3-2 victory over St. Pauls in the Raiders’ season-opening matchup Monday evening.
Alcacor, a sophomore striker, scored all three goals on the night — two in the first half and one in the second.
“We ended up winning the game tonight over a very good St. Pauls squad, so I’m pleased with that,” coach Bennie Howard said. “It’s always nice to have a positive win in the very first game of the season.”
Richmond held the Bulldogs without a goal in the opening half, but St. Pauls was able to tie the game at two after the break. Howard says the small collapse on defense can be attributed to his team still trying to find “four solid defenders” who can replace the three main defenders it lost to graduation.
“Two of those seniors were all-conference — Ryan Ross and Alex Lopez. So, we knew going in that we were going to have to really concentrate…and we’re still working on that,” Howard added.
This season, the Raiders return four of the six players who were named All-SEC last year — Corey Smith, Alex Alavardo, Max Diaz and Alcacor. Smith and Alavardo were both named to the Mid-South State Games this summer, where they helped their team win the silver medal in Raleigh.
“I subbed every position tonight with the exception of those two,” Howard said. “Corey at starting goal and Alex as one of my midfielders. Those two guys played the entire 80 minutes.
“We’ve got some talent on the team,” he added. “We’ve got a good, strong bench. And of course, the JV team won 7-1, so that’s a good win for them to start off their season as well. So, overall, it was a good night for the Raiders.”
Richmond expects to improve on a 11-6 overall and 7-4 conference finish in 2015. The Raiders made it to the first round of the NCHSAA State Playoffs, but fell to 6-3 to Mooresville.
“I told them I’m tired of us getting bumped in the first round — and that’s happened the last two years,” Howard said. “We want to see if we can advance to the second and then who knows?”
With Pinecrest finishing undefeated in SEC play last year, the Raiders hope to knock off the reigning champs and sit alone in that top spot.
“We always shoot for number one,” Howard explained. “Pinecrest, they always seem to be in the mix. Lumberton has a good squad, Hoke is steadily improving and Purnell’s steadily improving. So, it’s going to be a battle for that first and second spot…You’ve got to win as many as you can.”
Next up for Richmond is back-to-back home games Wednesday and Thursday against Jack Britt and Marlboro Academy, respectively. Wednesday’s game begins at 7 p.m., while the Marlboro matchup will kick off at 5:30 p.m.
“Jack Britt is going to be another tough match,” Howard said. “We’re going to have to have a good practice tomorrow to get ready for them, because they’re tough…they’ve always got a good soccer squad.”
Reach sports editor Leon Hargrove Jr. at 910-817-2673 and follow the sports section on Twitter @RCDailySports.