North Surry hasn’t beaten cross-town rival Mount Airy in girls’ soccer for at least seven years.
With a little better ball movement and a little better luck, the drought might have ended on Friday evening.
This year’s edition of the Lady Greyhounds is a much stronger team than people have seen in recent years. North Surry had won just nine matches in the five seasons prior to 2018, but already has three victories and a draw on its ledger this season. Earlier in the week, assistant coach Eric Jessup, who has handled many of the Lady Hounds’ coaching duties while head coach Julie Gammons fights cancer, said that the match with the Lady Bears would be a good measuring stick for where the team was at.
Ultimately, the Lady Bears held off North for a 3-2 victory, getting two goals from Baylee Greenwood and one from Katheryn Lachino. But the match was in doubt until the final two minutes, and the Lady Hounds (3-2-1) had every reason to think they could have won this one.
“I thought that the girls played very well and I’m proud of them,” said Jessup. “They played their hearts out and got a lot of support from our fans tonight. We just didn’t get it into the net enough.”
A year ago, Mount Airy outscored North Surry 14-1 in the two meetings between the two teams, but it was clear after the opening 20 minutes that this one was going to be different. The teams were deadlocked at 1-1 thanks to goals by each team’s leading scorer, the Lady Bears’ Greenwood and the Lady Hounds’ Adaly Hernandez.
In the latter part of the first half, North Surry surprised maybe everyone but itself by dominating time of possession. The Lady Hounds had the ball for roughly three-quarters of the “second 20,” and Mount Airy head coach Will Hurley was visibly upset with his team’s lack of aggressiveness in the face of the North attack.
“We just didn’t play well at all. These are teenage kids on a Friday, and they’re ready for the weekend and really for spring break,” Hurley said. “We just need to get them refocused. (North Surry is) a good team and they played well, but we need to play our game.”
In the 22nd minute, the Lady Bears barely dodged a bullet when a ball got caught in the wind and settled just a few yards in front of the Mount Airy goal. In the subsequent race between the two teams to get to the ball, the hosts just barely prevailed as one of Lady Bear fullbacks cleared it.
However, this didn’t stop North from pressing on, and Leslie Ramirez, Michelle Leyva and Hernandez kept the pressure on. The ball remained in the Lady Bear end, and Greenwood spent much of her time trying to hold off North Surry. She did get a free kick in the 28th minute, but it wasn’t long before North was back on the attack. Even when Greenwood was free in the midfield or the offensive end, Leyva stayed right with her.
“Michelle did an outstanding job of marking Greenwood,” said Jessup. “She didn’t give her a lot of opportunity to get free and get a more than a handful of shots off.”
Mount Airy went to the break happy to still be tied, while the Lady Hounds had their eye on a bit of history in this rivalry.
Each side scored a goal in the first nine minutes of the second half, only to have it waved off for going offside. In the 46th minute, Olivia Malone crossed the ball to Jo Snow in front, but it was disallowed. Three minutes later, Ramirez thought she’d put the Lady Hounds in front, but that one was called back as well.
The Lady Bears’ offense finally got untracked in the second half, and the home team started to put more pressure on North Surry. Greenwood just missed the net on shots in the 53rd and 55th minutes, and the Lady Hounds couldn’t get the ball cleared out of their own end. Still, it took a stroke of luck for the Lady Bears’ junior striker to break the tie.
Just into the 56th minute, Greenwood sent the ball in the direction of the North Surry goal on what looked more like a pass from 25 yards out than a shot. However, Lady Hound keeper Emma Burnett lost track of the ball in the setting sun, which was right above the trees and right in her eyes. The ball trickled just inside the left post and the Lady Bears took a 2-1 lead.
“The sun comes down right over those trees when it’s late in the evening here, and it causes a glare,” said Jessup. “I asked her about it and she said she just couldn’t see the ball.”
That one may have been a lucky break for Mount Airy, but five minutes later, freshman Lachino, who had been giving North’s defenders fits for much of the second half, got a little bit of an opening and put one past Burnett from about 10 yards out to make it 3-1 in favor of the hosts with 19 minutes remaining.
At last, the Lady Bears and their fans started to relax, but they did so too soon. North Surry refused to quit. In the 66th minute, the Lady Hounds were back on the attack and Shelby Roberts made a crossing pass to Hernandez from six yards in front of the goal, getting the ball past Mount Airy keeper Samantha Stewart and making it 3-2.
Each team had chances in the last 14 minutes of play, with Ramirez and Hernandez leading attacks for North and Greenwood, Snow and Malone all having chance for the Lady Bears. But Mount Airy’s win wasn’t safe until it earned a corner kick with time inside of two minutes to play.
North Surry travels to Forbush on Monday, while the Lady Bears (5-3) host South Stokes on Tuesday.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.