Whitewater boys, girls defeat region rival Northgate

Tue, 03/18/2008 - 10:33pm
By: Kevin Wandra

Some say the true test of a championship-caliber team is how it responds to a heartbreaking loss during the regular season.

Coming off disappointing losses Friday to McIntosh, the Whitewater boys and girls teams came away Tuesday with key Region 2-AAAA victories over Northgate on Senior Night in Fayetteville.

The 12th-ranked Whitewater boys squandered a two-goal lead in the second half, but Chase Sullivan saved the day for the struggling Wildcats, coming off the bench to score on a header with 1:22 remaining in host Whitewater’s 3-2 victory over unranked Northgate.

The victory was Whitewater’s first this month.

In the girls game, Erin Emerson scored two goals in the second half to lead Whitewater to a 3-1 victory over Northgate in a battle between two teams that are both ranked fifth in the state.

Whitewater’s boys took a 1-0 lead late in the first half when Victory Murray raced down the left sideline and tapped the ball inside the right goal post.

The Wildcats’ second goal was made possible by some fancy footwork by Ryan Pugh about midway through the second half.

Pugh rushed down the right sideline and executed a stop-and-go move that left an embarrassed Northgate defender sitting on his buttox. Then Pugh kicked the ball to the top of the box to a player who had just come off the bench, Chandler Winner, who kicked the ball into the net for a 2-0 lead.

It appeared that Whitewater would cruise the rest of the way, but Northgate answered with two goals within a 10-minute time span to tie the match with 11:32 to go.

Brandon Wilson reached a loose ball in the box, turned and blasted a left-footed shot past the outstretched arm of Whitewater goalkeeper Vincent Easterbrook for Northgate’s first goal.

Wilson hit Olumide Akolomede with a cross on the run and Akolomede bashed the ball into the net for Northgate’s second goal.

Whitewater had two legitimate scoring chances in the next 10 minutes, but neither resulted in a goal.

Northgate’s Seth Wood, with goalkeeper Wesley Lutz caught too far out of his net, cleared the ball away from a wide-open goal before a Whitewater player could touch it.

Pugh got to a loose ball and sent it into a wide-open net for an apparent go-ahead goal five minutes later, but the goal was nullified by an offside call.

Whitewater was seemingly on the verge of having to attempt to pull out the victory in overtime, something coach Shane Pulliam desperately wanted to avoid because he has seen his team go 0-4 in games decided by penalty kicks this season.

After entering the game only minutes earlier, Sullivan averted Pulliam’s fear of going into overtime by heading a cross by Kyle Adams past Lutz with under two minutes left for what would hold up as the match-winning goal.

If a victory could ever be viewed as being somewhat disappointing, this was it for Pulliam.

"It feels good to win, but we should do better than what we are doing," Pulliam said. "We should be able to come in and close the door on people. Right now, it's not happening

"A lot of people say athletics builds character. I'm a big believer in the other way: athletics exposes character. We've been exposed at times when we should have risen. Hopefully, tonight maybe was the start of the phoenix coming out of the ashes, and we can start playing to our potential."

The Whitewater girls held a 1-0 lead heading into halftime, with its lone goal in the first half coming from Brittany Vining, who took a cross from Feagan Hunt that slipped past two Northgate defenders stationed in front of the net and beat Lady Vikings goalkeeper Hilary Masdon to her right.

A sliding kick by Northgate’s Katie Taylor less than 10 minutes into the second half erased Whitewater’s lead.

Then Emerson, a sophomore, showed Whitewater perhaps a glimpse of the future on a night that was dedicated to celebrating Whitewater’s talented senior class.

Emerson put Whitewater ahead for good with her first goal, a free kick from just outside the left side of the box that bent over the outstretched right hand of Masdon.

Vining set up Emerson’s next goal, sidestepping a defender just outside the box before sending the ball ahead to Emerson, who completed the play by kicking a rolling shot into the right side of the goal.

Whitewater coach Heather Allen viewed the match as a must-win for her team.

"I knew if we didn't win, we might not have made the playoffs," Allen said. "We both would have had two losses, and they would have had the tiebreaker. We definitely needed this win."

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