By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 7, 2009 1:46 PM
A four-year plan paid its biggest dividend Wednesday evening.
Princeton tallied an early first-half goal and relied on its defense to defeat archrival Rosewood 1-0 on the Branch Pope Field pitch. The Dawgs seized their first-ever Carolina 1-A Conference regular-season championship and secured the No. 1 seed for the state playoffs.
"When the girls stepped onto the field tonight, I knew they would be all business," said Princeton coach Tim Besel.
And when that lone goal found its mark, the Dawgs turned up the defensive pressure. Goalie Amber Brush didn't log a save, but the sophomore keeper picked up her fifth shutout against conference opposition this season.
Rosewood managed just one shot on goal in the 80-minute affair. Gabby Cornman's blast from 25 yards out sailed over the crossbar and through the goalposts.
"Tonight, Princeton out-played us and we couldn't generate a lot of offense," said Eagles coach Eddie Maldonado. "The first game (against Princeton) I was upset because I felt like my team didn't show up. (But) if you beat us two times in a row, you're better than us.
"Hat's off to them."
Princeton fired 14 shots on goal and had a 5-1 edge in corner kicks. Rosewood keeper Taylor Johnson notched eight saves, including two punchouts which resulted in corner kicks.
But the most-important goal slipped through 120 seconds into the game.
The Dawgs (13-3-0, 6-0-0 CC) applied pressure inside the 6-yard box and the Eagles struggled to clear the ball from their defensive third. The ball rolled out to Anna Dougherty's feet and she rifled a shot from 25 yards out that curled toward the back post.
Johnson, who covered the near post, watched in disbelief as Dougherty's shot settled into the lower left corner.
"I was on the backdoor and I was in the right spot at the right time," said Dougherty. "I wanted it so badly ... put all I had into that goal."
From that point, Princeton worked on disrupting Rosewood's offensive attack. Little midfield support and wasted passes haunted the Eagles, who endured back-to-back losses against their archrivals for the first time in program history.
"The goal was extremely huge," said Dougherty. "I thought it was amazing, but knew we had a whole lot of game left ... a lot of work to do. I can't say enough about our team because we have really come together.
"After a goal, we all gel together ... get back on defense and back each other up even more than we have been."
Princeton outscored its conference opposition 27-1 this season and didn't yield goals in four combined outings against North Johnston and Rosewood. The Dawgs' victory ended the Eagles' three-year reign as Carolina champions.
Soaked from post-game celebratory icebath, Besel's eyes glistened and a huge smile covered his face.
"I was speechless," said Besel. "I didn't know what to tell the girls after the game. But they certainly earned it ... well-deserving of the reward they got tonight."
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