Garner Cleveland: Sports

West Johnston takes outright GNRC lead, edges Clayton

Clayton went toe-to-toe with West Johnston’s high-scoring offense for over 95 minutes on a frigid Wednesday night. But in the end one big kick separated them.

Junior midfielder Kristin Power lived up to her name, blasting a shot past Lauryn Kabrich from about 25 yards out with 4:10 left in the second overtime to lift the Wildcats to a 3-2 girls’ soccer victory over the Comets.

The win improved West, which has outscored its opponents 48-7, to 8-0-1 overall and 5-0-0 in Greater Neuse River 4A play with its third straight win.

Clayton, which was playing its third straight overtime game, fell to 4-4-1 and 3-1-1.

“It was a great game by both teams,” West coach Ken Sweat said. “I liked their style. Their center mids did a great job controlling the ball and finding somebody. They threatened the wings really well.

“It was a fun game to watch. I thought our girls were a little out of sorts in the first half, but we played a lot better in the second.”

Power finished with a goal and an assist on the night while Heather Bittle had the tying goal as well as the assist on Power’s winner.

Rachel Thomas scored the Wildcats’ other goal.

Freshman Nicole Guerrero scored both goals for the Comets, putting Clayton up 1-0 and 2-1 before the home team answered each time.

Clayton outshot the Wildcats 18-12.

“We played hard and we had some good chances,” Comet coach William Williams said. “I knew it was just going to come down to somebody putting one in late in the game.

“I’ve got such a young team, with four of five freshmen playing a lot tonight. We’ll be better when we play them at our place. They might be, too. But we’re going to be better. I can’t fault the effort.”

Guerrero got the visitors on the board in the 19th minute, scoring into an open net from the top of the box with Claudia Woznichak on the helper.

“I got a couple of really good passes from our outside mids,” Guerrero said. “The only question was whether or not I could finish. I thought we played our hearts out tonight.”

West then answered in the 35th minute, when Bittle tapped in her goal from the right doorstep with Power on the assist.

“Kristen made a good cross, and after the goalie missed it I was wide open,” Bittle said. “It’s cold out here, but I think we did a good job focusing on just playing our game.”

Guerrero put the Comets up again in the 46th minute when she tipped in Lauren Daniels’ centering pass, but Thomas equalized just two minutes later on an unassisted blast from the right of the circle.

“That goal just helped us get to overtime,” Thomas said. “We really pushed ourselves because we wanted to keep up the winning streak. They’re our big rivals and they have a really good team.”

That’s where it stayed until Power got the Wildcats the advantage late in the overtime with Bittle on the helper.

“I just kind of closed my eyes and shot,” Power said. “That’s the first time I’ve scored this year with my right foot.

“Clayton has a lot of good players and plays well as a team. We were kind of scruffy in the first half but we put it together at the end.”

Kabrich finished with nine saves to 15 for the Wildcats’ Hannah Stephenson.