05/02/06 — Hawks rally, beat Eagles

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Hawks rally, beat Eagles

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on May 2, 2006 2:22 PM

For most of the 80 minutes, Rosewood's girls soccer team had three-time defending conference champion, North Lenoir, in a rare situation -- playing from behind or tied.

Still, the Hawks never seemed to panic in a 4-3 win at Branch Pope Field on a breezy Monday evening.

With the victory, North Lenoir (19-0-1 overall, 9-0 Classes 1-A/2-A Carolina/Eastern Plains Conference) secured its fourth straight conference championship and will take the league's top seed in the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs next week.

Before entering the postseason, the Hawks will travel to Spring Creek on Wednesday.

"We talk a little bit about it (four straight titles), but we take it game-by-game. This was a big game for us tonight," first-year North Lenoir coach Sara Pittelkau said. "We're going to go the playoffs, but we need to stay focused on Wednesday. We still have a job to get done."

Rosewood (15-2 overall), slipped to 7-2 in Carolina/EPC play with both of its losses coming against the Hawks. The Eagles, who travel to Princeton on Wednesday in their regular season finale, will take the conference's second playoff spot.

"We knew tonight would be a great test. With the 1-A/2-A split playoffs, we're not going to see any more teams that we can walk all over," Rosewood coach Eddie Maldonado said. "It showed us what we're going to have to do ... when you go up against a good team, you have to keep the pressure on."

Center midfielder and team catalyst, Katie Maloney tallied a hat trick and scored twice for North Lenoir after intermission -- including the game-winner. With the game knotted at 3-3, Maloney won a loose ball in the middle of the box and found enough daylight to knock a low shot off the inside of the left post and into the goal.

Rosewood had several chances to equalize in the waning minutes, but North Lenoir goalie Febe Barraza and stopper Jordan Hill turned in a handful of clutch plays down the stretch to help secure the key victory.

The Hawks outshot the Eagles, 12-2 in the first half but failed to capitalize on the shot-discrepancy as the game stood 1-1 at halftime. Rosewood's Stephanie Behrend scored just 30 seconds into the match on an assist by Erin Thibodeau, while Maloney tied the match just two minutes later with a left-footed shot from 10 yards out.

Rosewood goalie Molly Grantham made several tough stops in the first half to keep the Hawks from taking an advantage into halftime.

Nine minutes into the second half, the Eagles took advantage of having the wind at its back as Thibodeau deflected in a shot past Barraza from close range to give Rosewood a 2-1 edge.

"The wind was a big factor in the momentum. In the first half, we couldn't get anything on our goal kicks, or play anything through up front," Maldonado said. But in the second half things were a lot more equal."

Eight minutes later, Haley Bright tallied her lone goal of the match on a follow shot after Grantham made a tough save on a shot attempt by Sasha Holeman. Three minutes after Bright's score, Maloney notched her second goal as the Hawks took their first lead of the match at 3-2.

Minutes after just missing out on a scoring opportunity on a header, Thibodeau pulled the match even once again as the speedy senior got behind the defense on a long ball from the midfield and touched a shot past Barraza with 17 minutes left.

In the see-saw battle, the senior Maloney finished off her hat trick two minutes later and pushed the score to its final margin.

"The advantage comes with experience. When you've played four years of high school and travel ball while you're in high school We're not perfect, but the experience does pay off."

Grantham finished with eight saves for Rosewood, while Barraza grabbed four saves -- all in the second half -- for the Hawks.