State-ranked soccer teams pick up key wins

Tue, 03/25/2008 - 3:11pm
By: Kevin Wandra

Whitewater's Emily Culbreth Whitewater's Emily Culbreth heads the ball while warding off Starr's Mill's Stuart Pope. Photo/Ian Davis.

Brittany Vining has a history of thriving in some of the biggest games in Whitewater soccer history.

She has developed a knack for delivering game-clinching goals against one of the top teams in the state — and one of Whitewater’s most bitter rivals — Starr’s Mill.

Vining scored both of fifth-ranked Whitewater’s goals Friday in its 2-0 victory over third-ranked Starr’s Mill in a rematch of last season’s Class AAAA state title game in Fayetteville.

It was Vining’s goal off a header that clinched the state championship for Whitewater last year.

“When the going gets tough, she gets going,” Whitewater coach Heather Allen said of Vining. “She gets excited about tough games.”

The victory was Whitewater’s second against a ranked team since losing to fourth-ranked McIntosh last week; Whitewater beat Northgate, also ranked fifth, 3-1 Tuesday.

The loss ended the Lady Panthers’ four-game winning streak.

Vining gave the Whitewater girls all the offense they would need with 29:11 remaining in the first half.

She set up her own goal by tapping the ball through her own legs to shake off a defender in the box and drawing a takedown that resulted in Whitewater being award a free kick.

Erin Emerson sent the free kick from just outside the left side of the box to the front of the net, where Vining headed the ball off the crossbar and bashed her own rebound into the back of the net.

Vining added an insurance goal with under 10 minutes remaining in the second half.

Vining was Whitewater’s offensive player of the night, but it was Whitewater goalkeeper Ali Young and her defensive teammates that were perhaps most impressive. Whitewater became only the second team this season to shut out the potent Lady Panthers; top-ranked St. Pius was the other team that blanked Starr’s Mill, 1-0 last month.

Young arguably played the best game of her high school career, recording a career-high 18 saves. Making 18 saves in a game is a significant feat, and even more so against a team as talented as Starr’s Mill.

“Ali was awesome,” Allen said. “She’s had several good games this year, but this one is probably one of the best ones.”

Young was backed up by a stellar performance from her teammates on defense, particularly Bailey Powell, Jewelia Strickland, Morganne Grimes, Lacey McGowan and Caitlin Beale.

In the boys game, fourth-ranked Starr’s Mill prevailed, withstanding a flurry of shots late to hold on for its fifth consecutive victory, 1-0 over 12th-ranked Whitewater.

Reliable goaltending and defense were the difference for the red-hot Panthers.

Starr’s Mill goalkeeper Chris Ward wasn’t tested often — he only recorded four saves — but he made each save count, especially in the final seconds.

In the final 10 minutes, Ward caught two free kicks in heavy traffic, before making his best save — one of the prettiest a soccer fan could ever expect to see — as the last remaining seconds ticked off the clock.

Whitewater’s Kyle Adams booted a free kick into the box to Ryan Pugh, who headed the ball sharply toward the net, but Ward laid out completely, deflecting the ball away to save the game for the Panthers.

“That last-second save was absolutely brilliant,” Starr’s Mill coach Mike Hanie said. “[Pugh] hit that ball, and I thought, ‘Oh, man.’ [Ward] came up big for us.”

Ward also received help from what Hanie viewed as one of his team’s best defensive performances of the season.

“Whitewater was unlucky to score on us a few times, but the biggest thing is we are playing very well collectively on defense,” Hanie said. “Our midfielders are sprinting back, and we’re defending with eight. We’re making it difficult for teams to get in behind us.”

Hanie praised the defensive play of a multitude of players: Hunter Hayes, Derek Williams, Matt O’Connor, Nick Fevella, Colin Mallon, Jerry O’Hara, Danny Hojaij and Jesy Phelps.

O’Connor prevented a probable goal midway through the second half.

Pugh broke through Starr’s Mill’s defense, but Ward came sliding out of his net to knock the ball away. The ball trickled toward the vacant net, but before a Whitewater player could reach it, O’Connor tracked it down on the run and blasted it downfield.

The lone goal of the match came on a miscue with 30:30 remaining in the first half.

Phelps booted a corner kick to the front of the net, where Sam Martin shot the ball to Whitewater goalkeeper Vincent Easterbrook, who lost his grip on it as he attempted to scoop it up, and the ball trickled into the net.

The Starr’s Mill girls and boys played crosstown rival Fayette County last night after the paper went to press.

Both Starr’s Mill squads will play Creekside Thursday and Harrison Friday.

Whitewater’s girls played Salem Monday. Whitewater’s boys are off all week.

McIntosh’s boys team, ranked third, defeated ninth-ranked Tucker 2-0 Friday for their fifth consecutive victory.

The fourth-ranked Lady Chiefs were off last weekend.

Both McIntosh squads played non-region opponent Newnan last night after the paper went to press, and they are slated to face region rival Woodward Friday.

The Fayette County Lady Tigers won two games over the weekend, 3-1 over Sandy Creek and 5-0 over Westlake.

Kira Cooper, Kelsey Coffey and Kris Peterson had Fayette’s goals against Creek, and against Westlake, Amy Evans recorded a hat trick, and Coffey and Gridley each had a goal.

Briana Karretis had Creek’s lone goal.

Fayette’s boys split two games last week, pounding Westlake 7-0 and losing to Sandy Creek 4-2.

Chris Feigenbaum and Bobby Dodd each had a hat trick against Westlake. Okurin Aiyankhebor added a goal.

Dodd and Luis Martinez scored Fayette’s goals against Creek.

Fayette’s boys and girls play Woodland-Stockbridge Thursday and Troup Friday.

Creek boys have won three consecutive games, including a 4-2 victory over Fayette and a 10-0 victory over Carrollton.

Harry Lee scored two goals and Stephan Bass and Alejandro Guerrero each scored one against Fayette.

Lee scored four goals, Guerrero three, Garrett Harper two and Kyle Aycock one against Central Carrollton.

The Creek girls also beat Central Carrollton, 10-0.

Jaimie Little and Linda Lehman both had three goals, Keri O’Neill had two goals, and Karettis and Caitlin Payne each had one goal for Creek. Lehman and Karettis also each had an assist.

Creek’s boys and girls played region rival Carrollton last night after the paper went to press, and they will play Cass on Friday.

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