05/08/11 — Early goal awakens Chargers' defense

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Early goal awakens Chargers' defense

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 8, 2011 1:51 AM

Haley Wood streaked down the left sideline, gathered a loose ball and worked her way into the 18-yard box.

Draped by a defender, the Epiphany School junior fired a perfect right-footed shot that bounced into the lower right corner of the net.

Wayne Country Day never flinched.

In fact, the goal -- 180 seconds into the contest -- woke up the Chargers, who put the defensive clamps on their Coastal Plains Independent 1-A Conference rivals. The Falcons managed just two additional shots in the final 77 minutes, and WCDS emerged victorious, 3-1, on a water-logged soccer pitch Friday afternoon.

The Chargers captured their ninth victory in their last 10 outings and improved to an impressive 5-0 in games decided by two goals or less this season.

"We've just grown every time we've gotten on the field," said second-year Chargers head coach William Hogan. "The girls have begun to play better, communicate better and I really think today was a culmination of their effort. The dynamics are really incredible with this group."

Epiphany (3-6-0 overall, 3-6-0 CPIC) tried to control the tempo and either double- or triple-team Wayne Country Day's talented scoring duo of Catherine Ford and Sarah Best.

It didn't happen.

Ford appeared to tally the equalizer in the 17th minute, but was called offside by the linesman. Three minutes later, the junior striker rifled a pass to Best, who was nearly on top of Falcons goalie Dana McLaughlin inside the 6-yard box.

Best, who nearly committed a handball violation, trapped the ball with her chest and booted in a left-footed shot to tie the game at 1-1. It was Best's 24th goal of the season.

Wayne Country Day (11-5-0, 7-2-0) controlled possession for more than two-thirds of the opening half. Sweeper Mack Thompson and her backline mates held Epiphany without a shot on goal.

"Even though we beat Epiphany earlier this season, we look at them as individuals that we've never seen before and try to take out their strong players who could hurt us the most, so that's what we try to shut down defensively," said Hogan.

The Chargers grabbed a 2-1 lead before intermission.

Sophomore Abbey Pope threw the ball into Best, who turned and fired a shot on goal. The ball deflected off a Falcon defender, and seventh-grader Catherine Langston collected her second goal of the season.

"We were able to transition well between defense and midfield (today), and we have some players on this team who have come up really big for us," said Hogan.

Ford capped the scoring with an unassisted, second-half goal.

WCDS keeper Kim Martell, the team's lone senior, recorded one save on three Epiphany shots. McLaughlin logged nine saves on 23 shots by the Chargers.

"When they went down early, that didn't phase them," said Hogan. "We've talked about this (in practice) that we're going to continue to play, no matter what happens. Epiphany brought some intensity and that does nothing but gets us ready for the bigger games.

"We stepped up another notch."

Wayne Country Day concludes regular-season play at home Wednesday afternoon against defending N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 1-A champion Greenfield. The Knights have already clinched the league's automatic bid to the state playoffs.