By David Rogers. August 18, 2017. BOONE, NC — Defending Big South Conference champion High Point benefited from an unlikely, “own goal” mistake by Appalachian on Friday in front of a packed grandstand at Ted Mackorell Soccer Stadium. Then, High Point head coach told Blowing Rock News afterwards, “We hung on by our fingernails” to take home a 1-0 win.
COVER IMAGE: Appalachian State forward Sarah Moon (18), races for possession against High Point midfielder Paige Rombach (20).
The score came with a little more than 17 minutes gone in the first half. After being deftly centered from the right wing by Panthers defender Mackenzie Mullins, the ball inadvertently caromed off the chest of App State’s redshirt sophomore Jessica Easley, rushing in to help in defense, and into the right side of the net past the outstretched arms of the diving Mountaineer goalkeeper Taylor Ray, another redshirt sophomore seeing early season action.
While the official scorekeeper credited Panther sophomore midfielder Maggie Gruber, video replays clearly show the ball bouncing off Easley’s body and into the goal.
Mountaineer head coach Sarah Strickland explained to Blowing Rock News later that the “own goal” was entirely accidental and unavoidable.
“There is nothing Jess could have done differently,” Strickland said, “unless she just had not been there when the ball took that wild bounce. She was doing her job, which was to come back and help out on defense. Unfortunately, she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Those kinds of accidents happen in soccer.”
In the first 36 minutes, High Point was moving the ball quickly, for the most part dominating possession and keeping pressure on the Appalachian half of the field.
As the half was winding down, momentum seemed to shift in Appalachian’s favor. At times it appeared that the Mountaineers had the Panthers on their heels. Three quick shots in the space of less than six minutes by three different Mountaineers were all turned away by the Panthers defense, including preseason Big South Defensive Player of the Year, senior High Point goalkeeper Alex Hank (Estero, FL), but playing at altitude seemed to be taking its toll on the visitors from down the mountain.
The second half was dominated by Appalachian. Several scoring opportunities provided plenty of excitement for the fans, but couldn’t find the back of the net.
High Point head coach Marty Beall told Blowing Rock News afterwards that while he was happy for the win, he was not satisfied with the overall play of his team. “For most of the game, after our score, we were hanging on by our fingernails, by a thread. Appalachian is well-coached, dangerous team. They are big, fit, fast and physical. They don’t back down and beat you to the ball.”
Next action for the Mountaineers is a Sunday non-conference game at Campbell, in Buies Creek, NC, with kickoff slated for 4:00 pm. They continue on the road at Ball State (Muncie, IN) on Sunday, August 27th and at Northern Kentucky on Tuesday, Aug. 29th, before returning home on September 1st for a 7:30 pm date vs. UNC-Greensboro. The squad’s first Sun Belt Conference action is September 15th, on the road at defending conference champion South Alabama.
High Point travels to University of Georgia on Sunday to face the Bulldogs in Athens, GA, then host Ohio University in High Point on August 25th.