KING — A wet and gloomy environment wasn’t exactly ideal for the first day of spring sports.
Amid a day of cancellations, the East Surry Lady Cardinals soccer team got a chance to test their skills against a formidable foe: the West Stokes Lady Wildcats. The Wildcats finished the 2016-2017 season as the state runners-up in 2A.
West defeated East Surry 9-0 for the team’s first victory.
Wednesday’s match showed that East Surry’s new additions were far from filling the shoes of last year’s team. However, Cardinal coach Neal Oliver doesn’t exactly consider that to be a bad thing right now.
“We’re seeing inexperience mistakes,” Oliver said. “We’re not seeing things that can’t be fixed.”
East Surry had its most successful soccer season ever in 2016-2017. The Lady Cards finished 13-8, were the 11th ranked team in 1A, and made it to the fourth round of the state playoffs. All were firsts in school history.
Oliver said that six of the starters on East Surry’s team have never played soccer at this level before. Oliver added that players understanding their roles on the field is something that the team needs to work on.
These inexperienced players were thrown into the deep end by playing powerhouse West Stokes in their first high school game.
The Wildcats controlled the offense for most of the match. Micha Harris and Zoe Wehr pounded shots at the Cardinals’ goal before finally breaking the seal in the 10th minute.
Anna Bates, who finished with three assists in the match, found Harris for the match’s first goal.
Once the floodgates were opened, there was no stopping the Wildcats. Wehr, who was named WPAC Player of the Year in 2016-2017, scored her first goal of the match just 10 minutes later.
West went on to score six more times in the first half. Wehr finished with four goals, followed by Harris with two, and Allie Hawkins and Emma Santoro each with one.
East Surry’s Elyssa Jones made a rare Cardinal run in minute 31, but it was quickly vanquished by West’s Santoro.
Perhaps the Cardinals’ best chance of scoring came in minute XX, when Christina Chavez made a run up the right sideline and crossed the ball into the Cats’ box.
The ball was passed around within the 18-yard box, but was eventually booted by a West Stokes defender.
Haley Noel took the ball up the middle at the beginning of the second half and nearly caught the home team off-guard. West recuperated and continued to rattle off shots.
East held the Cats scoreless for 12 minutes before Bates put the nail in the coffin with the ninth and final goal. Bates’ goal was paired with a trio of assists on the evening.
Though not the outcome the team desired, Oliver said the Cardinals will continue to grow into a talented team.
“We have a very tough early season and we expected that, but I think that the girls will respond and by the time we get to conference, we’ll be a solid team,” Oliver said.
As for how the team will bounce back, Oliver said that the best way to get better is to keep playing strong opponents.
“Nothing teaches you the game like the game [itself],” Oliver said. “Getting on the field and playing against another team.”
The Cardinals will be back in action tonight when they travel to North Iredell. West Stokes will travel to Walnut Cove on Friday to face county rival South Stokes.
Reach Cory on Twitter @MrCoryLeeSmith