05/09/07 — Rosewood makes it three straight over Princeton

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Rosewood makes it three straight over Princeton

By Rob Craig
Published in Sports on May 9, 2007 2:33 PM

When Rosewood saw its draw for the first round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association Class 1-A playoffs, they didn't have to do too much homework scouting the opponent.

Carolina Conference archrival Princeton had been awarded a wild-card spot and was headed to Branch Pope Field to take on the Eagles for the third time this season.

The Eagles had already defeated the Bulldogs twice during regular-season play -- a fact that made Rosewood coach Eddie Maldonado more than a little nervous.

Maldonado feared his young team -- which features seven freshmen out of 16 players -- would be overconfident and could look past Princeton. While that may have been the case early on, Rosewood still took care of business and beat Princeton for a third time, 3-0, on Tuesday evening.

"I was afraid we were going to come out a little cocky and not take them too seriously and tonight, it kind of looked like we were just going through the motions," said Maldonado. "I was hoping for a better performance, but I kind of expected this."

With neither team able to put together a good scoring chance and possession being given up constantly for both sides, the game had no flow for the first 15 minutes.

Even with the inconsistent play, the Eagles still struck first.

A Mary Jo Moore pass found freshman Gabrielle Cornman at the top of the penalty area. Cornman booted a shot that ricocheted off the left post and crawled across the line for a Rosewood goal.

The Eagles then looked as if they had a second goal when Francesca Verceles-Zara gathered a pass and broke down field. With only one defender to beat, she tried to make a move past Princeton's Morgan Brush who wouldn't go for it and cleared the ball down field.

The stop was one of many for Brush who thwarted away countless Rosewood scoring opportunities.

"Morgan hates playing sweeper because she wants to score goals," said Princeton coach Tim Besel. "Today, before the game, she actually asked if she could play sweeper the whole game. It's more important for her team to do well than her as an individual.

"She knows the game and leads the team from the back."

Even with the strong defensive play of Brush, Rosewood was still able to get another scoring chance late in the first half.

At the 33-minute mark, the Eagles would find the back of the net again, but not without a little luck.

Alex Lea gathered a loose ball in front of the box and fired a shot that hit off the side of a Princeton defender's leg and into the goal, putting Rosewood ahead 2-0.

"The first two (goals) were just unlucky," said Besel. "The ball was just pinballing around in front of the goal."

In the second half, Princeton looked to have some momentum as it began controlling the ball and kept it on the Rosewood side of the field.

The Bulldogs then had their best scoring chance of the game as Kenna Holt hit a laser towards the goal, but Rosewood freshman goalie Taylor Johnson came up with a huge save.

"We were controlling the ball," said Besel. "We just couldn't finish. We had opportunities and that's what we talk about all the time is creating those opportunities."

Johnson recorded a clean sheet with four saves.

"Taylor couldn't make basic saves at the beginning of the year so we worked with her on just making the easy stops," said Maldonado. "Now, she's become someone we can really count on."

Rosewood would finish off Princeton with a well executed final goal that was anything but luck.

Lea launched a throw-in into the Princeton box that bounced right to Cornman who drilled a shot past goalie Sara Gibbs for her second goal and a 3-0 Rosewood advantage.

"Alex is a little workhorse in the middle," said Maldonado. "We've gotten to the point where we usually have a good idea of where she's going to throw it. Her throw-ins are sometimes a lot like corner kicks so she's a real commodity for us."

Despite just being a freshman, Cornman continues to draw rave reviews from her coach.

"Gabrielle has stepped up huge for this year," said Maldonado. "She's one of those real aggressive players who is going to beat anyone to the ball and is going to push forward to try and get as many goals as she can. She's a smart players and a skillful player."

The victory keep Rosewood (11-5 overall) alive while Princeton finishes its season at 5-11. The Eagles will now sit back and wait to see who they face in the second round on Saturday.

Just don't expect the Eagles to take their next opponent as lightly. Maldonado will make sure of that.