By David Rogers. March 29, 2019. BOONE, NC — It was the second deluge in as many nights, but it didn’t rain on either occasion.
COVER IMAGE: After a solo sprint down the sideline, right wing Bailey Whitehead-Price sizes up the West Caldwell goal before taking an early shot in Watauga’s 14-0 win. All photographic images by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
Building on Thursday’s 9-0 demolition of South Caldwell in Hudson, Watauga women’s soccer returned home on Friday to dominate West Caldwell in yet another Northwestern Conference win, 14-0.
In what may well be the fastest three goals scored in the history of soccer, it took just 21 seconds for Watauga to poach West Caldwell’s kickoff and maneuver through the Warrior defenders for the game’s first score. Attacking midfielder Lily Suyao scored the goal, an assist credited to Bailey Whitehead-Price.
Only eight seconds later, Suyao found the back of the West Caldwell net for her second goal — and only eight seconds after that, Watauga completed its less-than-one-minute hat trick when center forward Lindsey Fletcher scooted the ball past the Warriors’ goalkeeper, with Suyao on the assist.
And the rout was on.
- Lily Suyao — 3 goals, 1 assist, playing time — 10 mins, 49 seconds (10:49)
- Bailey Whitehead-Price — 1 goal, 2 assists, playing time — 49:23
- Lindsey Fletcher — 2 goals, playing time — 52:12
- Emma Schneider — 1 goal, playing time — 41:40
- Ella Brown — 2 goals, playing time — 52:12
- Lily Brown — 1 goal, playing time — 41:37
- Brelyn Sturgill — 1 goal, playing time — 40:28
- Jo Hill — 1 goal, 1 assist, playing time — 52:12
- Cailey Haas — 1 goal, playing time — 52:12
- Magali Turner — 1 goal, playing time — 25:23
Several among the coaches, players, fans, reporters and photographers present shared a common lesson with Friday’s dominant win. The “mercy rule” in North Carolina high school soccer is when a team leads an opponent by a 9-point margin. So in this match, Watauga was ahead 9-0 just 17 minutes into the first 40-minute half. If the contest had ended there, it might well have gone down as the shortest match in the annals of soccer history. Even the PA announcer said, “Well, that’s the game, folks. Thanks for coming.”
But the game officials said “no.” They explained to coaches, players and photographers on the sideline that the mercy rule doesn’t go into effect until a full half has been played.
Even with Watauga head coach Chris Tarnowski liberally substituting younger reserve players in place of his starters, and moving regular starters into different positions, the Pioneers were unstoppable by the lesser-skilled Warriors.
“Whether we are playing the best team or a team that historically not as good,” explained Pioneer head coach Chris Tarnowski to Blowing Rock News afterward, “we, as coaches, tell our girls that they need to compete playing Watauga’s brand of soccer.
“The danger,” he noted, while admitting the natural tendency to “let up” on an opponent when the score gets lopsided, “is that you fall into bad habits. And when you don’t compete hard, you are more likely to get injured.
“So you manage these kinds of situations with liberal substitution,” he added, “giving your entire roster plenty of time on the field and even resting your starters. You also can allow players to take the field in positions with which they may not be familiar. It is all a learning experience at that point and those other positions give them a new perspective of their normal position’s role in the game.”
One of those front-line starters is center fullback Jo Hill, who typically plays a key defensive role. From roughly the midpoint of Friday’s first half on, Hill switched ends of the field and found herself playing offense, as an attacking forward with starting goalkeeper Cailey Haas, midfielder Emma Schneider, and reserve goalkeeper Magali Turner as her teammates in the front. In essence, the defenders took the place of the team’s offensive stars: Suyao, Whitehead-Price, Fletcher, and Sturgill.
And the Watauga offense hardly skipped a beat. Schneider, Hill, Turner and Haas each recorded at least one goal in the final 17 minutes of the first (and final half).
“Playing another position is not just fun,” Schneider smiled to Blowing Rock News in comments after the game. “It really does provide a different perspective of your normal position and how it fits into the team equation, both offensively and defensively.”
Next up for Watauga will be a stiffer challenge at West Forsyth, in Clemmons, NC. Tarnowski told his athletes afterward that this will be a good non-conference test of where they are as a team because West Forsyth is ranked as the #1 team in the state — and #4 in the nation.