PILOT MOUNTAIN — Pretty much everyone agreed that one team outplayed the other in the first half, and then the tables turned in the second.
The good thing, if you were a Surry Central fan, was that its strong first half was better than East Surry’s second, and so the Lady Eagles came away with a 2-0 victory in the first soccer match of the season between the two schools.
Surry Central won its fourth straight match by parlaying goals from Mallory Spagnoletti and Sofia Valle into a 2-0 halftime lead and then doing just enough defensively in the second half to keep the Lady Cardinals off the board.
“I feel like they out played us in the second half. They out-worked us and out-possessed us,” said Surry Central coach Matt Richardson. “We were kind of looking to counterattack off their attacks, where in the first half, it was the opposite. We talked at halftime about keeping the intensity in the second half, and that is something we definitely need to get better at.”
The Lady Eagles (6-4 overall) had their hosts on their collective heels for nearly the entire first half, with East Surry managing only a few threats on the offensive end. With the Lady Cardinals struggling to possess the ball, it was only a matter of time before their defense cracked, and it did exactly 13 minutes into the contest, when Spagnoletti headed in a loose ball in a melee in front of East keeper Maggie Collins for a 1-0 lead.
The trend continued for the rest of the first half, as the Central defense and midfield, primarily led by Olivia Olchowoj, Sarah Ford and Valle, kept a close watch on Lady Cardinal striker Mary Jo Lowe, and denied her from getting any touches unless they were far from the goal.
“We definitely talked to the girls about (Lowe) before the game,” said Richardson. “She’s a dangerous threat when she gets the ball, and especially when she gets the ball on the run toward the keeper.”
In the 34th minute, a 35-yard shot off the foot of Valle found the back of the net, and the Central lead extended to 2-0. Although East Surry ended a long drought by finally getting a shot on goal a minute and a half later, the Lady Eagles carried their 2-0 lead into the break.
After halftime, play favored the home team, but East Surry could never get on the board, and as time wound down, the Lady Cardinals may have felt the sense of urgency too much.
“The second half was much better,” said East Surry coach Neal Oliver, “(but) we rushed our shots, instead of settling down and taking our time. Hopefully, we’ll get that worked out.”
In the 48th minute, Lowe finally got her first good opportunity, getting a ball about 10 yards in front of the left post, but she was unable to get the ball into the net.
Play continued, and in the 58th and 59th minute, Central first had a chance to put the match away, and then East had a golden opportunity to get back into it. First, the Lady Eagles’ Spagnoletti and Taylor Cochran were inside the box against Collins. Spagnoletti took the first shot, but it was stopped and came back to Cochran, who blasted a hard shot to Collins’ left from no more than four yards out. She made a diving save to block it, and then the East Surry defense was able to flip the field. About 40 seconds later, Lowe was gunning away from point-blank range on the opposite side of the field, and Central keeper Alea Doby made a virtually identical diving save to her left.
In the 66th minute, Lowe and Daija Hatcher collided going for a loose ball in front of the Central goal, but the play still resulted in a corner kick taken by Karlee Easter, who placed the ball in front of the left post, but right where Doby could get to it first.
Easter had a free kick from 35 yards in the 69th minute, which Doby saved as well.
Spagnoletti nearly had the clincher three minutes later, when she had an open net from 15 yards out, but missed the goal wide right. The Lady Cardinals’ final good chance came in the 75th minute, when Abby Key had an open shot from 30 yards out, but Doby made the save.
East Surry will host Forbush this evening, while Surry Central will host North Stokes on Wednesday evening.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.