Blue Ridge Soccer: J.J. Malone Scores 4th Hat Trick of Season, Leads Knights to 4-1 Victory over Olympia

FARMER CITY, Ill. -- Usually, a 2-1 halftime lead is the result of a satisfactory quality of play in the first half.

"In the first half, we started out extremely slow," Knights soccer head coach Marty Price said to the contrary.

Instead of playing passive soccer to protect its one-goal lead in the second half, Blue Ridge came out firing, seeking the insurance goal.

After getting many chances thwarted by Olympia goaltending (the Spartans' goaltender saved 13 shots), senior forward J.J. Malone (pictured below in the white jersey) found the net twice, securing a 4-1 victory for the Knights.

"In the six years I've been here, we've always been a second-half team," Price said.

Malone's two second-half goals added to one in the first half to complete a hat trick. It is the fourth time he recorded at least a hat trick this season, and he now has 14 goals.

The first of Malone's second-half goals occurred after a solid save by senior goaltender Josh Plunk (pictured below). After crouching down to stop a shot by a Spartan, he crawled toward the ball and grabbed it before another Olympia player could produce a potential game-tying shot.

Plunk finished the game with six saves.

Following the save, Malone raced down the right side of the net and booted one past the Olympia goaltender. The assist on that goal was credited to freshman defender Coale Dolbert.

With little time left in the match and Blue Ridge leading 3-1, Malone received a pass from junior midfielder/forward Jon Jones. Malone then maneuvered to the right side of the net before kicking a shot to the left side of the net for the hat trick.

Jones got the assist on that goal, and some of the South Park attendees (rather than throwing their hats) honked their car horns in approval.

Malone's first goal was assisted by junior midfielder Josh McQuaid, who kicked a forward pass to Malone while he had two Spartan defenders covering him. Malone out-raced the two defenders and booted the ball to the right side of the net to give Blue Ridge an early 1-0 lead.

After Olympia's Noel Litwiller scored to tie the game at 1-1, Conner Builta passed the ball to Malone for what seemed to be his second goal of the match.

Instead, the Spartan goaltender made a diving save with his outstretched right arm. Following the rebound, however, junior midfielder Bryant Lagle returned the ball to Builta (No. 11, pictured below), who scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal from the center of the net.

With the win, Blue Ridge improves its season record to 5-1. The Knights will travel to Tolono on Thursday to take on the Unity Rockets at 4:30 p.m.

The Knights' next home match will be on Saturday. They will kick off against Danville Schlarman at 11 a.m.

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