By David Rogers. May 1, 2018. BOONE, NC — Behind stifling defense, deft passing and opportunistic attacks at space, Watauga women’s soccer charged to a dominating, Senior Night win, 8-0, over visiting Freedom (Morganton, NC) on Tuesday at Jack Groce Stadium.
En route to the victory, the Pioneers saw goals from six different players, including two apiece from Chloe Walczak and Lily Suyao. Bailey Whitehead Price was credited with an assist on Watauga’s first two tallies, then added a solo goal of her own early in the second half.
Regardless of the three-way tie with South Caldwell and Hickory atop the Northwestern Conference standings (each team having split with the others in their home and away, regular season series) with 11-2 records, Watauga is a case for the higher seed in the upcoming North Carolina state championship tournament on the basis of a better overall record and a lopsided point differential.
Whitehead Price was instrumental in opening the scoring floodgates with 34 minutes remaining in the first half. Dribbling down the right sideline on a sprint to space, she turned the ball on a cross in front of the net where Walczak punched it past the Patriot goalkeeper. The offensive ice broken, from there it was all Watauga.
- 34:00 (1) — Chloe Walzcak, assist by Bailey Whitehead Price
- 31:25 (1) — Lily Suyao, assist by Bailey Whitehead Price
- 26:10 (1) — Shaelyn Sheaff, assist by Lily Suyao
- 23:21 (1) — Emma Brown
- 20:45 (1) — Lily Suyao
- 11:14 (1) — Chloe Walzcak, assist by Emma Schneider
- 25:09 (2) — Bailey Whitehead Price
- 8:58 (2) — Emma Schneider
In a post-match interview with Blowing Rock News, the Pioneers’ head coach Gody Zayobi noted that a primary objective for the team in practices leading up to the state playoffs will be on what he described as “finishing.”
“We started strong today,” Zayobi said, “with those six first half goals, but then we sort of cruised. We need to finish strong.”
One explanation for the falloff in second half scoring may well have been from the numerous substitutions, with different combinations of players and some playing in positions unfamiliar to them.
“Yes, that can affect continuity and momentum,” the first year Watauga head coach acknowledged, “but when we are ahead 5-0 it is time to think about the bigger picture, too. First, we have a match on Friday, so there is no reason to overwork the starters today. But just as important, getting a comfortable lead means that you can get more valuable playing experience for your athletes who may not normally see as much time on the field in a close game. As we go into the state playoffs, that experience will be important. Whoever is representing us on the field, though, I expect them to finish, and finish strong.”
A good example of the playing time opportunity came in the second half. Starting goalkeeper Cailey Haas was pulled from the net with 10 minutes remaining in the first half and the Pioneers ahead, 6-0, but she opened the second half at right wing forward, sat for a spell, then returned to the field to finish the match. The second half action up front was undoubtedly welcome, because in the first half (as goalkeeper), she might as well have unfolded a cot in front of the net and taken a nap. Her teammates were that good on keeping possession of the ball in the attacking half of the field. In the second half, Haas was active along the right side, helping the Pioneers put pressure on the Patriot goal.
Watauga completes regular season play on Friday when they travel to Lenoir to face West Caldwell. The Warriors sport a 1-17 overall record for the 2018 season, 0-13 in Northwestern Conference play. On April 10th at Watauga, the Pioneers dismantled the Warriors, 9-0. Watauga is now 15-2 overall, 11-2 in conference. MaxPreps.com has the Pioneers ranked as the 68th best team in North Carolina, 24th in the Class 3A rankings that are led by Charlotte Catholic, Cox Mill, and South Iredell.
SLIDESHOW By David Rogers for Blowing Rock News