The Falcons went into a final scrimmage game last week expecting the best only to find themselves embarrassed and frustrated.

“We had a scrimmage with Buckfield and they ran all over us and beat us 7-4,” Mountain Valley coach J.T. Taylor said. “As much as the guys didn’t like that, I think it was good for us.”

The Falcons took that defeat and tried to use it in a positive way Saturday in the season-opener against Monmouth. Despite a slow start, the Falcons came from behind for a 2-1 victory.

“We expected to go into that game and win,” said senior midfielder Curtis Steele of the Buckfield loss. “We came really flat. I don’t think we came in knowing what to expect from Buckfield.”

Saturday, Aleski Pirttijoki and Felix Andris scored  goals for Mountain Valley and the Falcons produced a solid defensive effort down the stretch to thwart Monmouth’s hope for a rally.

“The last 10 minutes they were tough,” Taylor said. “It was a hard-fought game. Monmouth, they played very tough. They’re well-coached. Every year, that program seems to get better and better.”

The Falcon players called the win a statement game. After going 13-0-1 in the regular season and losing in the MVC title game and then in the Western C semifinals, Mountain Valley has something to prove this year, despite losing 14 players from that club.

“We want to show that we’re not just a rollover team this year,” midfielder Ryan Bennett said. “We want fans at the stadium. We want them there cheering for us.”

Monmouth got a goal from Hunter Richardson and some outstanding saves in goal from Bradley Neal. The Mustangs just couldn’t produce the equalizer despite creating some pressure on the Falcons young defense.

“I didn’t feel like we played well,” Monmouth coach Joe Fletcher said. “I think we’ve played better. I’ll give them credit. They forced us into not playing the way we’ve been coached. We tried to do too much.”

Monmouth took the early lead just 8:31 into the game. The ball bounced off a player on the left side and Richardson chased down the loose ball and buried it for the lead.

“It wasn’t the greatest of goals that they scored,” Bennett said. “It was really unlucky on our part, I think.”

Mountain Valley responded and started to pick up its play. The Falcons like to move the ball on the ground and get a fast-paced passing attack going. That style of play began to emerge and helped set up the tying goal with 24:50 left in the half.

“We came out a little flat,” Taylor said. “I don’t think we were ready for the physicality. That’s part of the game, but some of my guys just weren’t ready. After the first 10 minutes, we kind of settled down and started to use the width of the field and started to make things happen.”

 Steele won the ball in the midfield and tried to move it up ahead to Pirttijoki, a senior from Finland.

“He called for the ball on the inside and one of the defenders actually hit it and it went off his leg,” said Steele. “It bounced over another guy and that’s how it got to Alex.”

Pirttijoki, one of five exchange students with the Falcons this year, buried the a nifty shot for the equalizer.

“I think it definitely picked us up and showed us that we can play with this team,” Steele said. “We’re a young team. A lot of the guys have never played together before. It showed them that we can play soccer like they can.”

Mountain Valley got the game-winner with 15:06 left when Andris dribbled by a couple of defenders and put a high shot under the bar for the 2-1 lead.

The Falcons hit the crossbar on a shot by Garrett Garbarini late in the half.

In the second half, Monmouth got a shot from Gage Cote that was headed out. Avery Pomerleau had a turn-around shot that was saved.

Late in the half, a flurry of yellow cards appeared. Richardson and Mountain Valley’s Sonke Hanneken each got yellows while a Monmouth assistant coach earned one as well with 11:35 left. Then just minutes later, Cote was given a red card, meaning he’ll miss the Mustangs next game. That left Monmouth without two of its better players up front for the final 10 minutes of the game.

“We talked about being mentally tough and we weren’t mentally tough,” Fletcher said. “We got three cards and we can’t afford to play without those players.”

Monmouth put on some pressure still. Jacob Beauchesne made a key stop and the Falcons defense rallied to fend off the Mustangs comeback. Monmouth finished the game with 13 corner kicks but couldn’t turn them into goals.

“It’s disappointing, but it’s a long season,” Fletcher said. “We played well in spurts, but we didn’t sustain anything for any length of time.”

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