Garner’s soccer game with Cleveland looked like a defensive struggle for nearly 30 minutes on Monday night before turning into something of a shootout.
But although the hosts put together a valiant comeback, Garner had the last laugh.
Michaela Wycoff scored a pair of goals with an assist, including the game-winning goal on an assist from Grace Bondurant in the 72nd minute, as the Trojans held off the Rams 4-3 in non-conference girls’ action.
The win improved the Greater Neuse River 4A member Trojans to 1-1 while Two Rivers 3A member Cleveland fell to 0-2.
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The hard-fought close game was a relief to both teams, as Garner had lost its opener to Fuquay-Varina 8-1 while Cleveland had fallen to Middle Creek 5-0.
“It was a good win,” Garner coach Joe Dennis said. “I thought we showed a lot of character going for the win and not just settling for a draw. We gave up a two-goal lead, but we fought back against the momentum.
“This was a really important win for us. We need to get some non-conference wins before we start conference play.”
Bondurant, who finished with a goal and an assist, and Kasey Adams scored the other Trojan goals.
Amaya Wall, Cassidy McNierney and Briele Cochran scored for Cleveland, which trailed 3-1 at halftime.
“We’ve only had four practices with all the snow and Garner is a very good team,” Cleveland coach Marissa DiMarco said. “I was happy with the way we responded to being down 3-1 because we came out on fire.
“I liked the way we battled. A lot of teams might have given up after the first half.”
The game was scoreless for the first 29 minutes before Bondurant scored her first on a free kick from about 25 yards out.
The Rams evened it in the 36th minute when Wall scored from in close on Kendall Lamm’s helper.
But Garner retaliated just 42 seconds later on Bondurant’s penalty kick before Adams scored from Wycoff in the 27th minute to make it 3-1.
“I have a lot of friends on the Cleveland team,” Bondurant said. “They’re pretty good. But we opened up the field and passed well. But we were good at going forward.
“And Michaela was great tonight. She’s an amazing player and I love playing with her.”
McNierney halved the difference, taking a lead pass from Anna Ford just 50 seconds into the second half. And then Cochran tied it in the 62nd minute with Hannah Evans on the assist.
But Wycoff came up with the late heroics to foil the Rams’ comeback.
“We played a lot better than we did in our first game, and we kept control of the game a lot,” Wycoff said. “We passed a lot better and were more comfortable than in the first game. I was happy with the way we improved.”
Mandy McLamb had six saves in the win, while Cleveland’s Katelyn Lowery stopped 10 shots on goal.
“I thought we played well as a team,” Cleveland junior defender Sarah Ginn said. “It was a tough loss, and a little frustrating because we were so close. But it was pretty good for a second game. We’re improving.”