Lady Cyclones fade in overtime

By Allen LaMountain
ASST SPORTS EDITOR
awlamountain@starhq.com

   JOHNSON CITY -- When a team has momentum it can help them overcome fatigue and physical limitations, but it has the reverse effect when lost. At Winged Deer Park on Thursday evening, the Elizabethton Lady Cyclones tasted momentum in the first half only to see it slip away in the second half and overtime in a 3-2 loss to University High.
   The District 1-AA championship was on the line and in the first half the Lady Cyclones were on fire -- taking a two-goal lead -- only to see that fire extinguished in the face of a physical Lady Buccaneer squad that kept getting better as the contest got longer.
   "We played 100 minutes of soccer out here," said senior Stacey Keller, whose goal in overtime was the difference in the match. "I got a perfect pass from Chelsea McIver inside the box and drove it home. In the first half we weren't challenging the ball as much as we did in the second half and overtime. I think that was the difference."
   Sophomore Samantha McClay broke the ice and got 'Betsy on the scoreboard in the 14th minute of play, taking a pass from Shayna Borland through the box and unleashing a left-footed blast that beat Lady Bucs goalkeeper Elizabeth Burke to her right hand side.
   Just two minutes later McClay struck again. Taking advantage of one of the few mistakes UH made in its own end, McClay weaved her way toward the Lady Bucs goal and found the nets to give Elizabethton a 2-nil lead.
   "I think we showed that we can play well against anyone," said McClay. "They really began marking us up better in the second half so we weren't getting balls over the top. They made it a physical game in the second half, but I still think we can go as far as we want to in the playoffs."
   The Lady Bucs caught a major break in the waning seconds of the first half as EHS' Abby Bremer was whistled for taking down UH's Chelsea McIver in the Cyclone goalbox and McIver nailed the penalty kick to make it a 2-1 contest.
   EHS keeper Maria Francisco leaped and got both hands on the penalty shot from McIver but was unable to hang on to the rain-slickened ball and UH had cut the 'Betsy lead in half at the break.
   "I'm proud of the way my team responded after getting down early," said University High head coach Val Love. "In the first half EHS dominated play and I just told my team that they had to want to win this game. You have to expect to win and in the second half we played to win."
   With the penalty kick in the Cyclone nets momentum then took a 180 degree turn, right into the laps of the Lady Bucs and they didn't waste it. University High began the second half with an attacking, pressing style of play that did not give open field to the Lady Cyclones and slowly began moving their way forward into the attacking end.
   At the 59-minute mark of regulation Elizabeth Bearfield took advantage of some sloppy defense by Elizabethton and scored the equalizer, beating Francisco to her left.
   On the play the ball was sent deep into the 'Betsy end, where Ashley Mottern attempted to block the ball with her chest. The ball took a sideward hop on the wet clumpy field however, away from Mottern, and right to where Bearfield charged and netted the tying goal.
   Elizabethton missed three golden opportunities to score and regain the lead -- and the momentum -- in the second half. Borland misfired on a beautiful crossing pass from McClay that went across the UH goal to an open Borland who fanned on the pass from point blank range.
   Another goal-crossing pass from Katie Presnell later in the second half was not taken advantage of as 'Betsy had seen the momentum come and go, and were now holding on for dear life.
   The last 'Betsy scoring opportunity saw Emily Shook missing just wide of the left post after a corner kick and subsequent scrum in front.
   "Fatigue played a big part in it," commented McClay. "I don't think we were in good enough physical shape to play in the kind of game they wanted to play."
   With just seconds left to play in the second half Ashley Green turned her right ankle in a midfield collision with Bearfield and was helped off the field. Her status for next week is not yet known.
   In overtime it was evident that the collective EHS gas tank had run dry, as the Lady Cyclones were never able to mount a serious threat offensively in the overtime period and the Lady Bucs went for the jugular.
   Keller was able to finish a pass from McIver four-minutes into overtime, and the Lady Bucs held on for the win that makes them District 1-AA champions for the second straight season.
   "We had so many chances, with balls going across the face of the (UH) keeper but we couldn't put it in," said EHS head coach Bill McClay. "UH used their size advantage on us and wore us down physically. The game kind of degenerated in the second half on, but I think they know that they were in a match.
   "I also think our confidence will be high if we face them again down the road. If we can eliminate the mistakes we made that let them get back into the game we'll be all right. Tonight UH capitalized on our mistakes."