Facing a persistent rain and slick field conditions, the East Wake and Garner girls soccer teams squared off Wednesday night both knowing that whomever persevered best despite the conditions would have the upper hand.
As it turned out, it was the visiting Trojans who found their form easiest despite the soggy pitch as Garner secured a 5-0 Greater Neuse River 4A Conference victory.
Freshman midfielder Lauryl Fright scored a pair of goals and the Trojans pulled away with three goals within a five-minute span to stay within one game of league leading Clayton for the top spot in the conference.
“It took us a while to work into it because I guess of the slick grass and rain,” Garner coach Joe Dennis said. “Once we got a hold of it and we got used to it, then (they gave) everything I asked for.”
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In the fourth minute, the Warriors (2-9, 2-6) looked like they would jump out on top as Eboni Montague beat the Garner defense on a breakaway only to have her shot on goal glance off the post and the Trojans play the ball out of harm’s way.
On the ensuing corner kick, midfielder Alexa Bird timed her run well and made good contact with the ball at the near post but the sophomore’s shot hit the outside of the net.
As the game would play out, those would be East Wake’s two best scoring opportunities of the night.
“We didn’t get many opportunities tonight so I told them that it is so important that when we do get those opportunities, that we do finish them,” East Wake coach Bree Orth said. “It’s so crucial; we didn’t get many shots on goal and you’re not going to win if you don’t put the ball in the back of the net.”
The Warriors’ defense kept the Trojans off of the scoreboard early on as Garner’s best two chances in the early going were attempts by Grace Bondurant, who hit the post and the crossbar.
On Bondurant’s second such meeting with the woodwork, however, Fright corralled the rebound and chipped a ball over the outstretch hands of East Wake net-minder Kristina Hamrick for a 1-0 lead.
The Trojans (7-3, 6-1) tacked on two more goals in the final three minutes of the first half due, in part, to the Warriors being unable to clear the ball effectively after absorbing Garner’s initial attack.
The first such occasion came when Megan Britt found the ball at her feet outside of the penalty box after an attempted clear and the freshman fired a shot that deflected off the right post and in for the 2-0 lead.
Then, just two minutes later, another freshman, Sonora Groulx, cashed in on a similar opportunity and gave the visitors the 3-0 lead 28.5 seconds before halftime.
“Overall, our defense played a great game,” said Orth. “A couple times we put our goalie in some uncomfortable situations because we didn’t clear the ball. I don’t blame my goalie at all.”
Fright connected from 25 yards out a mere 71 seconds into the second half for a 4-0 lead and Lily Schild blasted home a Bondurant corner kick to conclude the scoring.
Hamrick denied 10 of the Trojans’ 15 shots on goal and defenders Ashton Cannon and Kelly Daughtridge came out victorious in most every one-on-one battle they faced all night for East Wake.
Mandy McLamb, tested just once by a long Cannon free kick, earned the shutout for the Trojans.
The win helped Garner to remain just one game behind rival Clayton, who is unbeaten in conference play, and one game ahead of West Johnston.
With a big week on tap for the Trojans with road games at Clayton and West Johnston, Dennis hopes his team is peaking at just the right time.
“Since the week we played West (Johnston) and Clayton … everything we’ve done since then has been to work on making sure that we’re playing the way we want to play so that we can win that West game first.”