Big step for 'Betsy

Cyclones drop G-P for first sectional berth

By Wes Holtsclaw
STAR Staff
wholtsclaw@starhq.com

   GATLINBURG -- Almost every time Elizabethton and Gatlinburg-Pittman meet in a soccer match, one of the teams is playing to avenge a loss the year before.
   This year was no different.
   In the Region 1-A/AA semifinal match at Benny Hammonds Field, in the middle of the Great Smokey Mountains, the Elizabethton Cyclones used solid defense to help hold off the Pittman Highlanders with a 1-0 victory.
   The win lets 'Betsy advance to the state sectionals for the first time in school history.
   "We're one of 16 teams left, and we get to play to be one of eight to go to Memphis," said Elizabethton coach Bill McClay. "You can't complain about that. There are many teams in the state who would like to be in that situation."
   Elizabethton avenged a 3-1 loss in the region semis last season, where Pittman got revenge from a loss to the Cyclones in 2002.
   The Cyclones advance to the regional finals on Wednesday against Sullivan Central, which laid a 6-2 whipping on Pigeon Forge last night in Blountville.
   "We get to come back and play Wednesday," said McClay, whose team has lost to Central by one goal in each of the three prior meetings this year.
   Elizabethton got the match's lone goal with 29:00 on the clock in the first half, when senior Dylan Smith delivered an unassisted shot, which deflected off the sidebar into the net past Gatlinburg-Pittman goalkeeper John Miley to give the Cyclones a 1-0 lead.
   The Cyclones had their hands full with Pittman in the second half of the match.
   Forrest Gray and Lugi Recarte each had close shots on goal for the Highlanders.
   Gray got one tied up in the side of the net, while Recarte broke open, only to have Elizabethton goalkeeper Ben Carey dive upon the ball at his feet.
   Robert Cogan and Eric Crowe each had close shots for the Cyclones in the second frame. Both went left of the goal.
   Late in the match, Aaron Ayers broke loose for the Highlanders with a chance to tie things up, but Carey came to the rescue again with a diving grab before the ball could leave Ayers' foot.
   Elizabethton held onto things until the final whistle blew.
   "We're happy to have won, but we're a little disappointed to not get more than one goal," added McClay. "We played pretty solid in the back and had several chances to knock it in."
   Carey wound up facing six shots, saving five for the Cyclones, while the Highlander goalkeeper Miley faced nine with eight saves, allowing Smith's goal.
   Cogan had three free kicks in the match, with seven shots at goal and four shots on goal, while Eric Crowe added four shots at goal and two on goal for the Cyclones.
   Elizabethton can continue their successful year with a victory at Central Wednesday.
   Already breaking the school record for most victories in the year, the Cyclones lost 1-0 to the Cougars in the District final and 3-2 both times in the regular season.
   The team is sure to be fired up for the game.
   "We know pretty much what we've got to do with Central," said McClay.