DOBSON — In many ways, this was the type of soccer match that one team is just glad it won.
Surry Central peppered the East Surry goal with shots during Monday night’s non-conference match between the two schools, but the Lady Eagles were denied most of the evening, thanks to their own errant shooting and a determined effort by Haley Noel, the Lady Cardinals’ inexperienced keeper.
Ultimately, Central managed to pull out a 1-0 victory on a goal by Joley Cabe in the 45th minute, and the Lady Eagles were happy to take the result.
“I think we had some chances that we didn’t capitalize on, but the bottom line is that we’re all happy we got a win,” said Surry Central had coach Matt Richardson. “We’ve continued to work hard through some tough games and practices, and they earned it today.”
East Surry head coach Neal Oliver thought his team had let a chance to steal one get away, but the Lady Cardinals had a much more pressing concern than that. In the 58th minute, midfielder Christina Chavez, who made All-Region a year ago, went down with a hamstring injury and had to be carted off the field. The extent of her injury wasn’t known by the end of the game, but the young Lady Cardinals have to hope she’s not out for long.
“We don’t know how serious it is,” said Oliver, who received well-wishes for his sophomore standout from several Central supporters and even one of the referees. “We’re hoping it’s just a strain, but it may be a tear.”
Right after the halftime break, Chavez nearly put the underdogs into the lead. In the 44th minute, she broke down down the middle of the field and outran the Central defenders for a direct challenge against Lady Eagle keeper Alea Doby. Doby wasn’t challenged often in this match, but she rose to the occasion here. Chavez drilled a hard shot from no more than 10 yards away, and Doby got her hands up on the ball over her head and managed to deflect it 20 feet into the air, then recovered and prevented Chavez from getting to it first.
Central quickly reversed field after Doby’s save, and 34 seconds later, early in the 45th minute, Cabe ran out ahead on a long pass from Sheila Urquiza and found herself in the same position that Chavez had just been in. Earlier in the match, Noel had guessed right and saved her team a goal in a similar circumstance, but she couldn’t deny Cabe’s 12-yard blast that went by her to the left for a 1-0 lead.
From that point until Chavez’ injury, Surry Central (2-4) was very much in the ascendant and rarely even let the ball out of the East end of the field. The East Surry back-line defense of Sophie Lowe, Grace Montgomery, Jessica Clayton and Elyssa Jones often found itself overwhelmed, although Noel stood tall as the last line of defense. Sarah Marion, Cabe and Areli Jimenez all had chances to extend the Central lead, but couldn’t find the back of the net.
After the injury, which caused a break in the action for a few minutes, things settled down and Central had just a few more shots before the match ended. East Surry, without its top attacker, was unable to generate much on the offensive end.
The injury to Chavez hurt her team’s chances of coming back, but Oliver didn’t use that as an excuse for the loss.
“We didn’t connect and play like we know how to play,” he said. “It’s that simple. You have to play basic soccer if you want to win, and we didn’t.”
The Lady Cardinals rarely got the ball across midfield in the first 20 minutes of the match. Chavez had her team’s first official shot on goal in the 11th minute, when she earned a free kick at about 20 yards left of the goal and took direct aim at the goal. Doby grabbed it.
Noel was already under attack by the Lady Eagles. Cabe had Central’s first shot on goal in the fifth minute. Noel earned her second save a while later, when Cabe took a shot off a corner kick from Taylor Cochran. She scored a third save in the 31st minute and then punted it to the other end, where Chavez missed a shot high from about 18 yards out in the 33rd.
Early in the 35th minute, Jessica Martinez found herself open and unmarked from less than 10 yards away and had what amounted to little more than a penalty kick again Noel. The senior, who has already signed to play collegiately with Concord University, made a save worthy of a college keeper, diving to her right and just getting an outstretched hand on the ball. There was still a hairy moment, as Cabe got to the free ball and shot the rebound, but she missed the net.
With 90 seconds left in the half, Noel turned away Jimenez from another free ball in front of the goal and preserved a scoreless deadlock going into intermission.