By David Rogers. May 3, 2018. LENOIR, NC — With the Kentucky Derby only two days away and the womenfolk known for their fancy hats, perhaps it was fitting that Watauga High School women’s soccer recorded a couple of “hat tricks” at Mack Cook Stadium — and threw in a “banana” just for good measure.
COVER IMAGE: Junior halfback Sadye Franklin shoots the ball past the West Caldwell goalkeeper for a second-half tally. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
Junior halfback Mary Louise Sprague and sophomore wing/center forward Bailey Whitehead Price each scored three goals apiece to lead the Pioneers’ 9-0 onslaught over host West Caldwell, but perhaps the “prettiest” goal of the day belonged to sophomore wing Emma Schneider when she perfectly curved a corner kick from the left side in the first half that arched over the outstretched hands of the Warriors goalkeeper and ducked under the crossbar and into the net.
Overall, this was a good game for us.
After the match, Schneider smiled in explaining to Blowing Rock News, “I was just trying to put it high and in front of the net, but it kept curving and curving and curving. You might say I got even more than I wanted.”
Although Sprague told Blowing Rock News when the dust had settled that she prefers colder weather (“Give me snow!” she said), the 85-degree weather in Lenoir didn’t seem to bother her much on this day. She frequently dribbled past defenders in the middle of the field and sprinted toward goal. Only a couple of timely saves by the West Caldwell goalkeeper and mishits on shots kept her from having six or more on the day.
Same with Whitehead Price, who seemed to be master of the middle, nudging the ball past defenders and sprinting with the ball to space.
With a least five regular starters missing for this rescheduled game that was supposed to have been played tomorrow, Watauga brought only a 12-woman roster for this return engagement against West Caldwell, whom the Pioneers defeated 9-0 at home on April 10th. Coach Gody Zayobi was forced to move some players around to unfamiliar positions and give more playing time to athletes who typically come off the bench in reserve roles. As a result, early in the match the Pioneers seemed more tentative than usual.
This was a good day to move players around.
A reminder from the coach to “communicate” seemed to fix things, and fast, as the Pioneers suddenly regained form in anticipating teammates movements into space, shared the ball more proficiently, and mounted constant pressure against the Warrior goal.
“What I wanted from the players this game,” Zayobi noted afterward, “was to communicate with each other, and I think we achieved that today perhaps better than any other game this season. And playing with a short roster today, at least for this game, was a blessing. We had an opportunity to play some of our athletes in different positions and give several of our players more time on the field. As we get into the state tournament beginning next week, that experience becomes very important because you never know who or what you are going to need at different times, especially late in the season. A frontline player might get sick, injured or simply unavailable on any given day for a variety of reasons.”
“This was a good day to move players around,” Schneider observed later. “Personally, I think I should have passed the ball around a little bit more and involved some teammates better, but as a team we played really well. Our communication today was really good.”
“Communication was key to our success,” Sprague agreed. “It helped keep our energy up throughout the game, and that positivity really does reflect in the number of goals that we scored. Changing positions can impact the tempo of the game, but like adapting to the heat, we have to get the tempo to where we want it.”
“Overall, this was a good game for us,” Zayobi concluded, “as we get ready for the state championships.”
Assuming that South Caldwell and Hickory win in their regular season matches against Alexander Central and Hickory, respectively, then they will join Watauga in a three-way tie atop the Northwestern Conference standings. South Caldwell is actually a 4A school, so will enter the 4A state tournament as a #1 team from the conference. Hickory and Watauga are both 3A contenders, so league officials must resort to tiebreakers to determine which team gets assigned the #1 or #2 team rankings for 3A state playoff consideration. Since the teams split their home and away, two-game series in the regular season, the league officials will conduct a simple coin flip, the winner getting assigned the #1 position and entitled to a higher seeding in the state tournament.
- Bailey Whitehead Price — 3 goals
- Mary Louise Sprague — 3 goals
- Chloe Walczak — 1 goal
- Emma Schneider — 1 goal
- Sadye Franklin — 1 goal