The Mount Airy girls soccer team came into its match with Elkin on Tuesday riding a three-game losing streak and in desperate need of a bounce-back performance.
The Lady Bears didn’t completely abandon their recent struggles, but they took a positive step in the right direction during a 0-0 tie with the Lady Elks. It was a result inspired by the tremendous play of Mount Airy’s back-line.
“A really good defensive performance tonight,” Mount Airy coach Will Hurley said. “I would have liked to get a goal out of it, and we had some chances, but I thought we played a pretty decent game all-around.”
The stars for the Lady Bears (3-5-2) were freshmen Baylee Greenwood and Haley France, who position in the heart of the Mount Airy defense. Greenwood plays a little farther up the field than France, and Greenwood was rock solid in possession and preventing Elkin from creating dangerous opportunities.
However, when the Elks did breach the first line of defense, France was consistently there to save the day. She made countless tackles and fought through a late injury to help maintain the scoreless draw.
“This is (France’s) first year playing soccer, but she just has great instincts, and great defenders have those kinds of instincts. She’s just been phenomenal,” Hurley said.
The first half was extremely quiet for both sides, as the teams combined for just one shot in the opening 40 minutes. Elkin did a slightly better job possessing the ball, though, and racked up three corners before halftime.
Coach Hurley tried to give his offense a spark in the second half and moved Greenwood into a more attacking role, but the Lady Bears couldn’t maintain possession in the midfield with the freshman outside of her normal defensive position. About 10 minutes into the period, Greenwood moved back alongside France.
The move was necessary as well, because Elkin had a couple of tremendous opportunities to score in the second half. With 14 minutes remaining, the Elks’ Mattie Timmerman sent in a corner kick almost perfectly onto the run of Catie Brown. The cross forced Brown to take a shot with her weaker left foot, and this adjustment may have caused the miss outside the left post.
Six minutes later, Timmerman was once again causing damage with her accurate passing. The Elkin forward drilled a low cross into the box and through the Mount Airy defense, but Mount Airy’s Grace Halpern did just enough to force Anna Poplin into a rushed shot over the crossbar.
Mount Airy couldn’t muster much offense in the second half, only forcing Elkin’s goalie into one easy save on a Greenwood free kick with 23 minutes remaining.
One positive in the Lady Bears’ attack was the play of sophomore Kaylee George. Normally an outside midfielder, Coach Hurley moved George into the striker position for the final 15 minutes of the match when he had to shuffle his lineup to deal with the injury to France. George looked both comfortable and aggressive for how little she’s played in that role.
“It was the first time we’ve ever tried Kaylee at striker, and she came alive there,” Hurley said. “It was the fastest I’ve ever seen her run, and maybe that’s a position we can use her some more moving forward.”
Mount Airy opens up conference play on Tuesday night against Atkins in Winston-Salem. The Lady Camels are 1-5-3 this season, but Coach Hurley believes that they are a better team than in years past.
Reach Jackson at 415-4702 and on twitter @jacksonfuller16