In a game Athens Drive’s girls soccer team needed for its state playoff hopes, the Jaguars overcame a quick start by Middle Creek to secure a 3-1 road victory over the Mustangs on Wednesday night.
Athens (5-8-1, 4-7-1 Southwest Wake Athletic Conference) fell behind 1-0 as Middle Creek dominated the opening 12 minutes. But behind a strong midfield, the Jaguars rallied, increasing their chances at making the postseason.
“We’re kind of in a must-win situation,” Athens coach Travis Seese said. “Tonight, we played well.”
The Mustangs’ free-fall continued, and their 7-11, 2-10 SWAC record has them on the brink of missing the state tournament.
“We knew at this point every game counted,” Middle Creek coach Kevin Ebner said. “Even if we were successful from here on out, we were going to be cutting it pretty close. It was a goal of ours to make (the playoffs), knowing we were going to have to do well in our conference. But when you’re not consistent, then it’s hard to be a position to earn a playoff spot.”
Turning point: Middle Creek grabbed a 1-0 lead in the 12th minute, but it was answered twice before halftime.
“The girls focused on being more aggressive, being more offensive-minded in practice yesterday, and it showed right away,” Ebner said. “We did that, and we got out to a lead. Unfortunately, though, they weren’t able to maintain it, for whatever reason it was.”
Give Athens credit, Ebner said, as the Jaguar midfield stepped up its game.
“Our midfield started playing much better,” Seese said. “They started winning a few more balls and started connecting some passes. That really swung the game in our favor.”
Jordan Kuhner scored in the 22nd minute and then assisted on Rachel Snyder’s goal on a corner kick 13 minutes later as Athens took control.
“We just had to calm down, settle the ball and play to feet,” Snyder said.” We started doing that, and it worked really well to be able to score more.”
Three who mattered
Rachel and Erika Snyder, Athens: The junior sisters had never both scored in the same game in high school, but Erika launched a 20-yard shot in the second half that found the back of the net, following Rachel’s first-half goal.
“It’s really cool to be able to do it for our school,” Rachel said. “It’s a lot of fun playing together.”
Ally Elliott, Middle Creek: The junior was aggressive from her forward position, creating several scoring chances for the Mustangs. She assisted on Maddie Massoth’s goal after a nifty give-and-go with Katherine Turner.
Behind the numbers
6: Middle Creek had a 7-4 record 16 days ago and seemed a good bet to make the playoffs. But the Mustangs’ six-game losing streak has been puzzling.
“I don’t know what it is,” Ebner said. “Sometimes it’s the breaks of soccer, and you get in certain slumps where things don’t go your way. Other times, you just run into good opponents. I think it’s a combination of both (for us). Playing in our conference, you have to show every single night, or it could be a tough game for you. That’s definitely what we’ve run into.”
Out of bounds: As the rain started to pick up after the game, Middle Creek players serenaded senior Stephanie Loy with a chorus of “Happy Birthday,” and then shared cupcakes with their teammate.