Middle Creek headed into Thursday night’s nonconference road clash at Millbrook knowing it would be without the services of leading scorer Camryn Amaker.
But with a little help from a lucky tennis ball, the Mustangs took on the family persona of head coach Guy Coleman to score a 3-1 girls soccer victory.
“We’re a family,” Coleman said. “It was just a team effort. We played like we wanted to tonight. I felt we were flat against Cary (on Wednesday in a 0-0 tie) and we had something to prove tonight.
“We were not finishing, but we did against a very good Millbrook team. And that was without our leading scorer.”
Instead of Amaker, who had six of the team’s 10 goals coming in, the Mustangs (4-0-2) got tallies from junior Maggie Banks, freshman Mattie Murphy and senior Ally Elliot.
“We wanted to shock the world,” said Elliot. “It’s our new slogan. We have our lucky tennis ball, thanks to Kayla (Lazo). And we got the win here today. So from now on, we want to shock the world.”
The Wildcats (3-1) found themselves down 2-0 early in the second half and turned up the offensive intensity to get on the scoreboard in the 51st minute when freshman Alexis Strickland scored off a corner kick.
But instead of wilting underneath the Millbrook pressure, the Mustangs answered less than two minutes later when junior midfielder Kylie McElroy sent a long ball from the back to a streaking Elliot.
The forward got control of the ball, touched it forward past her defender into the middle of the field where she blasted the ball into the net beyond the outstretched arms of keeper Hayleigh Pack.
“I just went down and took the wide open shot,” Elliot said. “I looked down, drew back and shot. It was as simple as it gets.”
Millbrook coach Matt Edwards said he saw much to be encouraged by from his young team, which outshot Middle Creek 19-13.
“You don’t want to lose, but I’m not going to lose any sleep over this one,” he said. “We knew it would be a challenge, a welcome challenge for us. This will go a long way for preparing us for (Cap-8) Conference play down the road.”
Edwards said it was 50-50 balls that were not contested fully by his team that led to much of the Mustangs’ counter-attacking success.
On two of the three goals, which were the first three allowed by Millbrook this season, uncontested free balls led to immediate chances for Middle Creek.
“Some bouncing balls, we did not get to,” he said. “We were exposed by counter attacks. Twice, they got balls in dead areas that led to 2-on-2 chances. And their two ended up being quicker, faster and just better than ours.”
Mustangs’ senior defender Sarah Hedgecock had two huge takeaways in the first half on potential scoring chances for Millbrook.
In the 20th minute, the Wildcats’ Claire Griffiths took a long pass from near midfield from Lauren Griffiths and took the ball into the penalty area with Hedgecock between her and the goal. The defender didn’t fall for any of three jukes, and stole it away.
In the 39th, Hedgecock was once again tested as Megan Proudfoot took a pass deep. Once again the ball was tackled away and cleared.
Putting up numbers
Elliot and Murphy each had a goal and an assist for Middle Creek. It was Elliot’s third goal and first assist and Murphy’s first goal and third assist.
Caroline Laurer notched four saves in net for the Mustangs, while her counterpart Pack had five for the Wildcats.