For 77 minutes and 47 seconds, it looked as though a spectacular early goal by North Surry’s Alexa Hernandez and lots of gritty defense might stand up for a Lady Hound victory on Thursday evening.
The Lady Hounds took a quick early lead thanks to Hernandez, who attacked the North Stokes goal on her team’s first possession in the Lady Vikings’ end of the field. In the second minute of play, she beat two Stokes defenders and took the ball in against Lady Viking keeper Meghan Mabe one-on-one. Mabe stepped out to try to make a stop, but Hernandez finished about five yards in front and gave North Surry a 1-0 lead after just 89 seconds of play.
Unfortunately, that was the only goal that the Lady Hounds were ever able to muster, and their guests scored a goal of their own in traffic with just 2:13 showing on the clock and escaped from town with a 1-1 draw.
Even with the disappointing ending, head coach Julie Gammons was pleased with her team’s performance.
“It was a hard-fought game on both sides,” she said. “Our defense has stood strong for us. That one ball just kept creeping and creeping until it found the corner of the net. I don’t have a lot negative to say about tonight.”
The tying goal came on one of a number of scoring chances that North Stokes (4-11-1) had in the second half. Right until the end, Lady Hound defenders Julisa Ramos, Chantea Taylor, Michelle Leyva, and Yannelia Lopez, among others, and keeper Madyson Stager had answered every challenge.
The final push by the Lady Vikings came with time running under four minutes to go. It had been nine minutes since Stager had faced a seriously dangerous shot, but in the final sequence, Stokes earned a series of corner kicks which the North Surry defense kept deflecting past the end line. Finally one went into play. At first, the Lady Hounds cleared it from in front of the net, but the visitors kept it close enough and finally forced a melee in front of the goal, where one of their players got a foot on the ball and angled it inside the left post.
In the last two minutes, North Surry held possession and pushed it near the Stokes goal, but were unable to get another score. The match ended with the Lady Hounds working in front of the Lady Vikings’ net following a corner kick.
Perhaps if North Surry had just a little longer, it could have pulled off a play like the one that started the match. Hernandez’ goal came before some of the fans had even settled into their seats, and sparked some early momentum for the Lady Hounds.
“That was great for her and for our team,” said Gammons. “We’re really concentrating on looking to score, and the fast that she did that without hesitation was big for her and big for us, coming that early in the game.”
North Surry had a number of opportunities to increase its lead in the first half. Freshman Leslie Ramirez, who was quicker than any of the Stokes defenders, got past the defense twice but was unable to put one into the net. Despite allowing the early goal, Mabe continued to be very aggressive in going after loose balls, and it probably paid off more than once in preventing the Lady Hounds from scoring more goals.
North Stokes mounted an attack inside of 14 minutes of the first half that led to shots on goal by Myranda Cook and Haley Cobbler, but Stager made the tough saves, and the last 10 minutes went by with no further strong threats on either side.
In the second half, the Lady Vikings had a slight edge in possession time, but the quality shots remained about even. Stager made two saves in the first 10 minutes and then Mabe made another save following a Ramirez breakaway at 26:05 to go. Five minutes later, Hernandez put a free kick from 25 yards out on the left post, barely missing a goal. Ramirez and Stokes’ Kaitlyn Moorefield put shots on goal over the next three minutes.
At 11:40 to play, two of the Lady Viking strikers got clear unopposed with only Stager to stop them. She raced out and grabbed the ball before they could, and then it was up to the defense to hold on, as North Stokes had the ball for about eight of the final 11 minutes. They nearly pulled it off.
The Lady Hounds will return to action at home against Forbush on Monday night.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.