05/13/04 — E. Wayne/W. Johnston soccer

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E. Wayne/W. Johnston soccer

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on May 13, 2004 2:53 PM

BENSON -- West Johnston's girls soccer team picked an opportune time to have what coach Tony Koy feels like was one the Wildcats' best games of the year.

West Johnston center forward and offensive catalyst Jessica Swanson got her team out of the gate with a breakaway goal six minutes into the match against visiting Eastern Wayne. The Wildcats went on to post three goals before halftime on their way to a 5-0 win at home in the first round of the Class 3-A N.C. High School Athletic Associa-tion playoffs.

The win sends West Johnston, a second-year varsity program, into the second round of the playoffs and a meeting with Wilson Fike. The Golden Demons are currently ranked fourth in the latest 3-A N.C. Soccer Coaches Association poll.

The end result may have exited the Warriors from the playoffs, but coach Jorg Wagner believes the postseason experience can be a building block for future years for his team that is two-thirds freshman and sophomores.

"We've got good talent for the next few years at Eastern Wayne," Wagner said. "We haven't had a lot of freshman on the varsity in the past, and whenever that happens it's a huge advantage by the time they are juniors and seniors.

"Hopefully next year we will add a round."

Ultimately, it was West Johnston's three fleet-footed forwards that did the damage -- especially early in the match.

After scoring the opening goal, Swanson raced to track down a loose ball near the right sideline 40 yards away from the goal. She managed to keep the ball in bounds and quickly dribbled down the sideline before booting a pass to Tara Crocker. Crocker's shot was deflected in the goal by Courtney Purdy as the Wildcats took a 2-0 lead.

"She's (Swanson) just gifted. She's got touch. She's unselfish with the ball," Koy said. "Our girls are learning from her because they know where she's going to play the ball."

Crocker knocked in a penalty kick with just under two minutes left in the first half to end the first half scoring.

Eastern Wayne, who was outshot 18-9 on the match, was limited in their goal chances in the first half. However, the Warriors did have a handful of free kicks from inside 20 yards but were unable to convert.

"I think we came a little slow off of the bus," Wagner said. "A long through ball from the other side of the pitch did us in the first few chances for them. The score certainly was deserved tonight for West Johnston, but I would have hoped it would have been a little closer."

Despite giving up an early goal on a header by Purdy off of a long cross from the right wing by Swanson, the second half saw Eastern Wayne play improved soccer with much more possession on the offensive end.

Warrior freshman Natalie Taylor's breakaway chance four minutes into the second just missed wide of the goal. Two minutes later, a free kick bobbled by the Wildcats' keeper was nearly knocked in but missed from point-blank range.

A follow shot by Eastern Wayne's Samantha Frazer was denied by a diving save by West Johnston goalie Brittany Oliver, who finished with five saves, with just under 20 minutes left in the first half.

Warrior goalie Ashley Lish came off the bench and had six saves in the second half, while Morgan Pritchett had five saves in the first half.

Swanson took a short, touch-pass Emily Vandrese and finished off the scoring for West Johnston with a goal off of an indirect kick at the top of the penalty box with just over two minutes left in the game.

"We didn't play flawless, but it was pretty darn close," Koy said. "We played one of the best games we've played all year, and these girls aren't quite ready to be done yet this year. We are young all around, but our defense and midfield stepped up as well tonight."

Sarah Bacon, Grace Northington, Jessica Pate, Sarah Foley, Christina Fanto and Katy Biehl all played their final game for Eastern Wayne. Wagner praised their ability to be true team players in their senior campaigns.

"We basically asked all of our seniors this year to play in unfamiliar positions because of the talent we had with the underclassmen," Wagner said. "All of that was done with not a hint of criticism, they just said 'it was the job we had to do' and they did it well.

"That's what I'm most thankful for."

2004 N.C. High School

Athletic Association

Class 3-A Girls

Soccer Playoffs -- First round

(at W. Johnston HS)

E. Wayne 0 0 -- 0

W. Johnston 3 2 -- 5

First half

WJ -- Swanson (unassisted), 34:49

WJ -- Purdy (Crocker assist), 22:00

WJ -- Crocker (PK), 1:50

Second half

WJ -- Purdy (Swanson assist), 38:13

WJ -- Swanson (Vandrese assist), 2:12


9 Shots 18

3 Corner kicks 5

1 Offsides 2

5 Fouls 8

Saves -- E. Wayne -- Pritchett 5, Lish 6. W. Johnston -- Oliver 5.