It’s been feast or famine for the Mount Airy soccer team the past two weeks.
After a five-match winning streak in which the Lady Bears scored 51 goals, team team finally met its match on Wednesday evening in a 2-0 loss to Elkin.
The Lady Elks, who needed a goal in the final two minutes to nip Mount Airy three weeks ago, were in the ascendant for roughly three-quarters of the rematch, including the entire second half. The home team had several chances to get on the board in the last 20 minutes of the first half, but the Mountain Valley Conference leaders, who held a 1-0 advantage at the break, once again had the edge in ball possession in the second.
“I think in our sport, you win a few in a row, and then it’s just destined that one day, it’s not your day,” said Mount Airy coach Will Hurley. “I think that is what happened to us today.”
Catie-Beth Brown got her team on the board at exactly 19 minutes into the match, finally breaking through after the Lady Elks (7-4 overall) had put heavy pressure on Mount Airy keeper Samantha Stewart for quite some time. The clincher came in the 69th minute, when Kathryn Jennings crossed a ball to Laken Brown, who fixed head-on from 15 yards and got a hard shot past Stewart for a 2-0 lead.
There could have been many more goals, if not for the efforts of the keepers, Stewart and Elkin’s Maia Schweikert, and the fact that after two weeks of outstanding execution, the Lady Bear offense seemed out of sync against the Lady Elks.
“I believe the team that wanted it the most won the game,” said Hurley. “We were sluggish all game. They played yesterday and we played yesterday, and you can’t ask for it to be any more fair. We just couldn’t get anything generated for a goal.”
Although the Browns got the two Elkin goals, Mount Airy had just as much trouble with Jennings, a sophomore whose physical play gave the Lady Bears’ defenders all sorts of trouble, and drew a vocal protest from Hurley during the second half. She created a number of scoring opportunities early on, although the Mount Airy defense parried everything until the goal by Catie Brown.
After Jennings missed a shot wide right of the goal in the 21st minute, momentum swung in the Lady Bears’ direction. Four minutes later, Kora Ledezma appeared set to put her team on the board when she beat an Elkin defender and moved down the middle of the field toward the goal, finally firing off a shot from less than 10 yards away. Schweikert got a hand on the shot, but it ricocheted in front, setting up a race between her and Ledezma for the ball. She recovered it before Ledezma could get there.
In the final seven minutes, Schweikert and the Elkin defense faced a full-tilt attack from Mount Airy, starting with a shot wide left of the net by Jessica Bevard in the 34th minute. The Lady Elks couldn’t clear it, however, and 45 seconds later, Ledezma loaded up from 13 yards away and appeared to have caught Schweikert a little out of position, but defender Arwyn Shoemaker was on the spot and stopped the shot short of the goal. Mount Airy pushed it back into the Elkin end after Shoemaker cleared it, but still could not find the back of the net.
A minute and a half into the second half, the Lady Bears had another excellent opportunity when Baylee Greenwood took a free kick from about 22 yards outside the left post, but Schweikert was again up to the challenge and kept her team up by one.
After that, the Lady Elks went back to the attack. Mattie Timmerman had a strong shot in the 44th minute, but this time it was Stewart’s turn to deny a goal, which she did. Over the next several minutes, she faced relentless pressure from Jennings and Corrin Shores, but held her own. Her highlight moment may have come in the 51st minute, when Catie Brown and Jennings got free down the middle of the field with only one Mount Airy defender in position to stop them. They managed to lose her, but Stewart aggressively came out of the goal to challenge and grabbed the ball in front of a charging Jennings to prevent a goal.
Ten minutes later, Mount Airy had managed to reverse the field, and Olivia Malone had her team’s last, best chance when she shot from 20 yards outside the left post, only to see Schweikert deliver again.
In the 59th minute, Jennings possessed the ball near the end line on the visitors’ side, and crossed it back to Laken Brown in front. She finished to make it 2-0. Two minutes later, the same play was repeated from the home side of the field, but this time, Stewart saved it.
In the 75th minute, Elkin’s Allie Lovett had a blast from 25 yards out that just missed being the third goal, loudly hitting off the top crossbar of the goal.
Mount Airy is slated to host Bishop McGuinness on Friday evening, weather permitting. Elkin returns to action on Friday night at West Wilkes.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.