Lady Cyclones beat Rebels

Photo by Ivan Sanders
Katie Presnell dribbles the ball past Sullivan South defender Rachel Murray.

By Ivan Sanders
KINGSPORT -- Lightning and Samantha McClay have two things in common--they both strike quickly and they leave their victims dazed after they hit.
McClay tallied four goals, including the game winner with four minutes left to play, as the Lady Cyclone soccer team opened its 2003 campaign with a thrilling come-from-behind 4-3 victory in a non-conference tilt with the Sullivan South Lady Rebels Monday evening.
"We came out slow in the first half, but after we got rid of the first game jitters we picked it up in the second half," said the Lady Cyclone scoring phenom McClay after the game. "The whole team passed the ball well and we had some good combinations on the front line."
Things started out positive for the Lady Cyclones, as McClay netted her first score at the five minute mark of the first half on a nice assist from Katie Presnell for the 1-0 lead. South pulled even five minutes later when freshman midfielder Leah Bishop found an opening past EHS goalie Sophia Murillo, knotting the score at 1-1.
South responded with a second goal at the 34:00 minute of the half on a nice drive to the goal by senior midfielder Erin Schmitt to edge the Lady Rebels to a 2-1 lead that stood until the whistle sounded ending the first half of action. Murillo had a solid half despite the two goals as the freshman goalie faced seven shots and had five saves for the Lady Cyclones.
South came out wasting little time in the second stanza, as the Lady Rebels appeared to be pulling away from EHS by netting its third score off the foot of senior Jessica Szuluk only a minute and a half into the second half to go up 3-1. That's when McClay went to the phone booth and came out like Superman by taking matters into her own hands.
McClay buried her second goal at the 53:00 minute of the half with a perfectly executed assist from junior Karin Kitchens. The tying goal came a little over 13:00 minutes later as McClay took a second assist from Presnell and drove it all the Lady Rebel goal for the 3-3 score.
With momentum changing sides, the Lady Cyclones began playing with the confidence of a well-oiled machine to keep the heat on South. Great play from Cassidy Hyatt, Presnell, Ashley Green, Bria Gouge, and goalkeeper Maria Francisco ultimately led to McClay drawing a final opportunity to push the Lady Cyclones over the hump.
That opportunity came at the 74:00 minute mark on a terrific lead pass from Hyatt to McClay, who shaked and baked her way past a couple of Lady Rebel defenders and placed the ball into the right corner of the goal, just beneath the crossbar. The goal proved to be the winner giving the Lady Cyclones the 4-3 victory.
Francisco made no less than three superb saves in the close three minutes of play to insure the Lady Cyclones were going home with the season's first win.
"After we went up 3-1, we had a pretty strong mental let down after Elizabethton scored their second goal," stated Lady Rebel head coach Tom LaGuardia. "I have to give a lot of tremendous credit to Elizabethton to start out their season today and come back to score three goals in less than 25:00 minutes of play. They came out ready to play."
Meanwhile, Coach Bill McClay was very pleased with the way his team responded to the opening-game challenge.
"This team showed a lot of character because they could have checked out at 3-1 and just quit, but they didn't," said McClay. "We got our focus back in the second half because we seemed way to loose to start the game. Our physical conditioning could have played a big part as well because South seemed to get tired late in the second half."
Added McClay: "A positive thing about the goals was they belonged to us. We gave South the three goals they scored by mistakes we made and not them blazing the ball by us. Those types of goals are things we can work on in practice. It was also the first time the entire team has been together as a unit."
Elizabethton opens up its home season with a huge early season match against archrival and conference foe University High at Brown-Childress Stadium on Tuesday August 26 at 7 p.m.