04/01/04 — Soccer -- N. Lenoir has easy time with Gators

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Soccer -- N. Lenoir has easy time with Gators

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on April 1, 2004 2:00 PM

SEVEN SPRINGS -- Despite a two-goal deficit against North Lenoir at halftime, second-year Spring Creek girls soccer coach Michelle Cobb couldn't have been more pleased with her team's effort.

The Gators contained the Hawks' speed for 40 minutes and missed two scoring opportunities to forge a possible tie at the break.

But Spring Creek lost its focus and North Lenoir increased its offensive intensity once the second half kicked off.

Julie Thomas and Melissa Campion

News-Argus/Dennis Hill

North Lenoir's Julie Thomas and Spring Creek's Melissa Campion battle for the ball in a soccer match Wednesday at Spring Creek.

Katie Maloney and Haley Bright combined for two goals in a seven-minute span as the Hawks eventually prevailed 6-0 in the Classes 1-A/2-A Carolina/Super Six/Eastern Plains Conference match. North Lenoir (8-0-1) remained unbeaten in four league outings and beat a conference opponent for the 15th time in 16 tries dating back to last season.

The difference was center midfield play.

Spring Creek (2-2, 2-2) failed to get any significant push toward the goal and lost possession on numerous 50-50 balls. When the Gators were able to attack on the Hawks' side of the field, they failed to move together as a unit and create passing lanes.

North Lenoir executed its game plan to near perfection.

Maloney dominated the midfield and the Hawks stayed wide, even when Spring Creek's players bunched around the ball. Bright maintained her position on the wing and Maloney showed patience in the center as North Lenoir slowly took control of the game.

"This is a short field, not as wide as we play on," first-year Hawks coach Dan Amodeo said. "We really emphasized to stay wide, stay stretched out and not get bunched up. We did that for the most part.

"Teams are going to start trying to take away the middle on us, and that's why we've got to continue to work it wide."

Elizabeth Foye jump-started the Hawks' offense in the first five minutes. The senior midfielder picked up a loose ball near midfield, dribbled it down the left sideline and crossed it to Bright, who was covered by four Gator defenders.

However, Bright easily beat each defender and fired a high shot toward the crossbar. Spring Creek keeper Yoshiro Marrero attempted a two-handed glove save, but the ball rolled off her fingertips into the net.

The Hawks continued pressuring the goal and Marrero came up with four consecutive saves. The most-spectacular stop was a diving save which denied Maloney her first goal of the game. Bright set up the play with a give-and-go pass from the near post.

Spring Creek gained some momentum from Marrero's intensity in goal and created two scoring opportunities. One ended when Rosabell DeLeon failed to pull Hawks keeper Febe Barraza off her line before shooting the ball.

Less than a minute later, co-captain Alex Garner fired a 30-yard strike toward the near post. Barraza had stepped out of the box, but sophomore sweeper Ruthanne Hardy cleared the ball two yards from the goal.

"Our defense has been the key the whole year to us having a successful season," Amodeo said. "We have a lot of speed with Ruthanne back there and Stephanie Nobles, our right defender, brings a lot of experience.

"They can play loose and not worry about making mistakes because they know Febe is back there to back them up."

North Lenoir grabbed its second goal in the 31st minute. The Gator defense failed to mark Maloney, who had ventured into the penalty area. Marrero saw Maloney was working toward the left and opted to defend the near post.

Bright crossed the ball into Maloney, who tucked the ball away into the low right corner of the far post. It was Maloney's 13th goal of the season and Bright's team-leading ninth assist.

"I thought we played the first half very well," Cobb said. "The second half, we came into the game and (when) they scored the first goal, the midfield and defense totally shut down.

"We didn't have anybody to step up and lead the team today, and we needed that person. Midfield was our weakest point today -- all around."

The Gator defense allowed the Hawks to settle the ball and take timely shots on goal in the second half. Maloney and Bright each scored twice within a nine-minute span. The duo has combined for 31 goals in nine matches this season.

Cobb's team never recovered.

"In the second half, when they got by us, we gave up," Cobb said. "We stopped completely."

Barraza earned her third shutout in goal.

Marrero had six saves for the Gators, who entertain James Kenan at 4 p.m. Friday.

North Lenoir 2 4 -- 6

Spring Creek 0 0 -- 0

First half

NL -- Bright unassisted, 4:46

NL -- Maloney (Bright assist), 30:35

Second half

NL -- Bright unassisted, 43:06

NL -- Maloney (Bright assist), 46:32

NL -- Bright (Burge assist), 48:39

NL -- Maloney (unassisted), 52:28

N. Lenoir S. Creek

22 Shots 1

3 Corner kicks 1

1 Offsides 2

10 Fouls 5

Saves -- Barraza (N. Lenoir) 0; Marrero (S. Creek) 6.