PILOT MOUNTAIN — All the East Surry soccer team wanted was for the injury bug to go away and give them a fighting chance.
That’s finally happened, and all of a sudden, the Lady Cardinals have put their season right back on track.
East Surry had its last tune-up before the start of Northwest 1-A Conference action on Friday evening, and it also provided the Lady Cardinals with another chance to avenge a loss to one of its county rivals. Two days earlier, East had tied Surry Central in a match that the Lady Cardinals felt they had all but won. On Friday, they did one better, blanking North Surry 3-0.
The Lady Greyhounds (3-4-1) had beaten East Surry 1-0 ten days earlier and were looking to extend a two-match unbeaten streak of their own, but the Lady Cardinals weren’t having any of it. The team’s defense was stout for the second match in a row, and the hosts took control in the second half.
“We’re starting to get better as a team,” said Lady Cardinal head coach Bill Hart. “We had a lot of injuries early in the season, and had kids playing hurt or playing out of position. Now we have everyone back, we have consistency, and things are coming together.”
On Friday, it took more than 30 minutes for either team to get on the board, but it was the Lady Cardinals (2-5-1) who drew first blood. Alyssa Jones got the ball to teammate Mary Jo Lowe withing scoring range, and she gave East Surry a 1-0 lead that held up for the remainder of the first half.
The Lady Cardinals kept up the pressure on North Surry in the second half, but the Lady Hounds are also playing better soccer than they had earlier this season, and continued to hold their own. Hart said that his sweeper, Laura Ruiz, made a huge difference in the match on both ends of the field.
“She’s been a solid defender in the back for us,” said Hart. “She was a stopper for anything that North Surry tried to do. It was a pretty good night for her.”
Ten minutes into the second half, it was Ruiz who got the ball ahead to Lowe for a goal that put the Lady Cardinals in command with a 2-0 advantage. It was the second straight match in which Ruiz earned an assist on an East goal even though she primarily played defense.
The final goal of the night came through an inadvertent miscue from North Surry. With about 15 minutes remaining, the Lady Cardinals were awarded a corner kick, which Hart sent the Ruiz, one of his best kickers, forward to take for East Surry. None of her teammates were able to settle the kick in traffic, but the ball went off one of the Lady Hounds and into the net for what was officially scored as an own-goal.
East Surry held off a number of challenges from North in the second half, while keeper Maggie Collins earned her second shutout of the 2016 campaign.
The Lady Cardinals will begin conference play on Monday night with a visit from powerhouse Bishop McGuinness before taking a lengthy hiatus during the rest of the week and the spring break. The Lady Hounds will seek to get back on track on Monday when they visit North Wilkes.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.