In a game where Pinecrest's Erin Houlihan drew “oohs” and “ahs” with skillful attacking moves, North Forsyth's Kat Fisher became a wall. Fisher stopped six shots, including four of Pinecrest's best scoring chances, as the Lady Radiers prevailed to a 2-1 win on the road Tuesday night at Pinecrest Academy.
North (3-4-1, 0-2 Region 6-AAAAAA) took advantage of two rare opportunities for its scoring. With 31 minutes in the first half, the Lady Raiders took a 1-0 lead when Mack Cary's shot was mishandled by goalkeeper Ashley Tripplet, resulting in an own goal.
Pinecrest (3-4, 2-0 Region 6-A) got even with 21 minutes remaining in the second half when defender Caroline Brenner made a heads up foot deflection in a scrum near the goal, but the Lady Paladins had a defensive breakdown just moments later, allowing Kristina Evans to break free for an open look and a 2-1 lead. The Lady Paladins had numerous opportunities late, but couldn't capitalize.
“We had chances, but we gave up an unfortunate goal and we chased the game the whole time,” Pinecrest head coach Domenic Martelli said. “We're looking at the scoreboard. We get the equalizer, but then there's suddenly another unfortunate goal, so we were chasing the game again. We don't want to leave chances out there, but we also don't want to give goals away.”
Pinecrest already made a statement against a Class AAAAAA school with at win at West Forsyth earlier in the season.
After being outscored 0-8 in the previous two games against West, 0-1, and Chattahoochee, 0-7, North head coach Jared Steinberg was glad to see his team turn a corner against an opportune county opponent from another division.
“Really, when we score first we haven't lost yet,” Steinberg said. “After what happened against Chattahoochee on Friday night, where we played them really well but then the flood gates opened, this game was really good for us. We had opportunities. Kristina sniffed out (the second goal), but she almost had a third one, so stuff could have gone our way too.”
Pinecrest outshot North 12-6, with Houlihan taking seven of the Lady Paladins' shots. Houlihan nearly hit the equalizer with 30 seconds in the first half when she flicked the ball past a defender, paused and took a strong, curling shot from 20 yards, but the clean look soared high.
She then had an open shot after a feed from Margaret Metz with 30 minutes in the second half that Fisher stepped in and erased. The duo traded places later, with just 3:12 left on the clock, when Houlihan decoyed and sent the ball to Metz, but again Fisher was in perfect position.
“We talked about how if (offense) is coming, it's coming from (Houlihan),” Steinberg said. “But Fisher played a great game, she was phenomenal tonight.”
After losing in the wake of two wins by a combined 13-0 score, Martelli wants his team to continue to look forward, but also remember the feeling of losing a game he thinks they should have won.
“Hopefully this is a learning experience, to go out there and play really well from the get go, but they just got their goals and we didn't. They have some very good players, but hopefully we learn from this and it prepares us more for our region play.”
Pinecrest boys 3, North 1
The Paladins increased their winning streak to three games to improve to 3-4 on the season.
The win is Pinecrest's first against a team from a higher classification this season, while North fell to 1-7.
North's Zack Gilbert opened the scoring with a strike from 10 yards away, but Pinecrest quickly got a chance to tie the score and capitalized as Stuart Jeans score on a penalty kick with 26 minutes left in the first half.
In the second half, Ben Rivard and Gabe Villar began to put pressure on North's defense. Rivard made a strong runout, controlling the ball with his chest before feeding Villar for the goal that gave the Raiders a 2-1 lead.
Rivard then scored on his own with 11:44 to go from close range. He nearly made the score 4-1 with 3:55 left when he had an open look from straight on, but his open shot sailed above the crossbar.