Mary Kay Bowers and Bayley Rigsbee have a way of finding one another on the soccer field. Paul Dinkenor, Leesville Road’s coach, has watched it happen more than few times this season.
One will score the goal; the other creates the assist.
Bowers and Rigsbee did it again Thursday night in the Cap Eight 4A Tournament championship match. The pair connected on the winning goal in Leesville Road’s 2-1 victory over Millbrook.
Rigsbee, a midfielder, described the play by saying she say saw Bowers dribbling the ball through a crowd in the penalty box.
At first, Bowers, a forward, thought it was impossible for her to get by three Millbrook defenders near the net.
“I just saw Mary Kate dribbling through a ton of people,” Rigsbee said. “I was screaming my lungs out in the middle of the goal.”
After a corner kick by forward Courtney Johnson, Bowers took her time dribbling along the sideline and used her left foot to place the ball at Rigsbee’s feet.
When Rigsbee scored her goal, it was Bowers who was screaming, this time in celebration rather than in urgency.
Usually, Bowers isn’t involved on corner kicks.
“I’m not good in the air (for headers), so I just watch what happens to see if I can do anything,” she said. “It just kind of worked out well.”
Millbrook coach Matt Edwards said Bower’s assist was a good one.
“She was not impatient, and she put the ball back into danger,” Edwards said of Bowers. “Her composure was big there.”
In fact, Bowers had to convince Dinkenor earlier this season to let her be near the net on corner kicks.
A lot of times the ball doesn’t bounce to Bowers.
Dinkenor was impressed with what Bowers did when she was given her opportunity.
“Mary Kay has that little burst of speed,” Dinkenor said. “She’s been involved in a lot of goals.”
The win gave Leesville Road (22-1-1) the No. 1 seed when the NCHSAA 4A playoffs start next week. Both teams won a share of the conference regular season title.
In the regular season, the schools split the series with each team winning on the opponent’s home field.
On Thursday, Millbrook (18-2) took the lead early in the first half on a goal from forward Colleen Markey.
But like the last match these teams played on April 25 – a 2-1 win for Leesville Road – the Wildcats couldn’t finish the match in the same fashion they started.
“It’s incredibly tough to close games out against them,” Edwards said. “It’s disappointing when you know how close these teams are and you’re separated by a few bounces.”
Forward Caroline Gentry created the Pride’s first goal. Gentry, a forward, pushed the ball up field in the 20th minute.
Her cross eventually led to on a goal by midfielder Rachel Radulovich.
After the Pride took the lead, goalkeeper Sydney Wooten secured the victory by making two saves in the final 10 minutes of the match.
Bowers said the Pride have accomplished all but one of their goals for this season. All that’s left is for the Pride is to repeat as state champions.
“We’ve done about as well as we could this season,” Bowers said. “We’re strong. We’re confident going into the playoffs.”