PILOT MOUNTAIN — Unless you happen to be a loaded 2A or independent school powerhouse, you don’t want to see East Surry on your soccer schedule right now.
The Lady Cardinals administered another beatdown to a Northwest Conference foe on Thursday evening, shutting out visiting North Stokes 4-0 to further extend their grip on the No. 2 spot in the league for the postseason. It was a strong bounce-back for East Surry (7-8-1, 5-2 NW1A) after losing at Bishop McGuinness two nights before.
The game was moved up one night due to a forecast of rain for Friday night, and the way the Lady Cardinals dominated play, North Stokes probably wishes it had been rained out. East Surry didn’t get on the board until the 27th minute of the contest, but then unleashed a blitzkrieg of goals that lasted the remainder of the first half and carried over into the second, when Mary Jo Lowe finished the scoring with a goal off an assist from Elyssa Jones.
“They came out just a little sluggish, but then we got that first goal and everyone settled down,” said coach Bill Hart of his team, which scored its four goals in a span of 17:34.
The Lady Cardinals opened the game a little tentatively, and North Stokes (5-14-1, 3-4) actually had a slight edge in possession time early on. However, it was soon obvious that the Lady Vikings weren’t going to be scoring any goals. Anytime the ball got near the East Surry goal, defenders Laura Ruiz, Anna Simmons and Alayna Speer were on the spot to take control of the ball. The visitors had only two serious shots on goal throughout the evening, and nothing that goalkeeper Maggie Collins couldn’t handle.
“We were looking to control the midfield in this game, that was kind of our focus in practice this week,” said Hart. “We weren’t really happy with the way the game started. We weren’t controlling the midfield and our forwards weren’t making the runs we wanted them to make.”
After an opening 25 minutes where the teams struggled to get the ball near the goal, the Lady Cardinals finally began to take command of the match. The breakthrough finally came with 13:12 left in the first half, when Haley Noel got the ball ahead to a streaking Lowe down the visitors’ sideline. The junior striker was completely unmarked, except for a teammate trailing her, until she let loose with a hard shot 18 yards away and buried it in the back corner of the goal for a 1-0 East Surry lead.
The goal seemed to pump up the Lady Cardinals, while deflating their guests at the same time. Knowing that a fluke goal couldn’t cost them the match, East Surry went into full-attack mode and dominated the rest of the first half. With 8:14 left before the break, Lowe crossed the ball to Abigail Key about 20 yards in front of the goal, and Key put it away to double the East Surry advantage.
It appeared that the Lady Cardinals would be content to carry a 2-0 lead into the intermission, but Emma Kish and the East Surry coaches had other ideas. The coaching staff was encouraging the team to keep attacking in the final two minutes, and with 35.3 seconds remaining, Kish responded to the entreaties of one of the coaches to take a shot, even though she was more than 30 yards from the goal. Her high, arcing shot from near the home sideline sailed all the way to the right post, where Stokes keeper Meghan Mabe got a hand on the high ball, but not enough to keep it from ricocheting off the post and into the net. The impressive goal sent the home team into the break with a commanding 3-0 lead.
“We told her to just kick it. She has that kind of a leg, and it was just a matter of taking the shot,” Hart said. “Sometimes you get a little bit lucky, catch the goalie off-guard, and it goes in.”
In the second half, Hart subbed liberally and East Surry didn’t attempt to pile on goals after Lowe notched her second of the night on an eight-yard shot following a pass from Jones at the 35:38 mark.
The Lady Cardinals continued to get the better of the action regardless of who was on the field, and most of the half was played in North Stokes’ end of the field. The Lady Vikings didn’t even earn a corner kick until the match was nearly three-quarters over, and the ball was quickly sent back into the other end of the field afterward.
“They weren’t able to put a lot of pressure on Maggie, and we got some great work from the girls off the bench, too,” said Hart.
Since starting the season at 1-5-1 while decimated by injuries, East Surry hasn’t lost to any opponent other than 2A Forbush (17-0-1) or Bishop. Against every team but those two, the Lady Cardinals are 6-0 by an aggregate score of 30-0.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.