Eas­ton squeezes past Bucs into first place

Record Observer - - Sports - By WIL­LIAM HAUFE bhaufe@star­dem.com

Eas­ton 1 — K. Is­land 0

EAS­TON — Eas­ton High goal­keeper Mi­randa Otwell moved away from her left post, dropped to her knees, and some­how foiled a point­blank shot from Kent Is­land’s Ally Heath with 3 min­utes re­main­ing.

“I don’t know. I just kind of put my hands in front of who­ever I see and got a glimpse of the ball,” Otwell said.

One minute later, the War­rior Sta­dium clock stopped with 2 min­utes show­ing, stan­dard pro­ce­dure as of­fi­cials keep track of the fi­nal 120 sec­onds on the field.

“By the time it got to two min­utes I was just think­ing, I hope they blow the whis­tle. I hope they blow the whis­tle,” Otwell said. “Just blow the whis­tle.”

The fi­nal whis­tle fi­nally sounded with the Buc­ca­neers scram­bling to squeeze off one last throw-in Tues­day night, as the War­riors rode Molly Oer­tel’s first-half goal and a solid de­fen­sive ef­fort to chisel out a 1-0 vic­tory that left them atop the North Bay­side girls’ soc­cer stand­ings.

“Big game. Big game,” Eas­ton head coach Mike Leach said af­ter his team im­proved to 4-1-1 over­all, 3-0-1 North, just ahead of Queen Anne’s (6-1, 3-1), Kent Is­land (5-2, 3-1) and North Caro­line (3-2-1, 2-1-1). “In the be­gin­ning of the year I said it was go­ing to be be­tween four teams.”

Though the divi­sion ti­tle may come down to Oct. 11, when Eas­ton hosts Queen Anne’s, and Kent Is­land trav­els to North Caro­line, it got tighter at the top as the War­riors handed the Bucs their first divi­sion loss and first shutout of the sea­son.

“Eas­ton played very tough,” Kent Is­land head coach Lynda Ke­p­ley said. “The first half they were out­play­ing us. In the sec­ond half we were out­play­ing them, but we just couldn’t put the ball in the net. Couldn’t find the net tonight.”

Both teams had chances in the open­ing 10 min­utes but couldn’t fin­ish. Eas­ton’s Ginger Louis steered a pass from left wing to open space near the right post, but no one was there. Oer­tel broke free 7 min­utes in but sent a blast high. The Bucs re­sponded by get­ting off two short-range shots in the 31st minute that Otwell stopped.

Oer­tel then took pos­ses­sion in the cen­ter of the field and, see­ing a pair of Bucs in front of her, arced a floater from around 25 yards out. Kent Is­land keeper Madi Banks leaped and as she backed up, had the ball spin through her hands and into the goal for a 1-0 Eas­ton lead with 27:11 re­main­ing in the half.

“I was drib­bling and I knew there were two de­fend­ers in the back, and I was like, I don’t want to risk drib­bling up to them,” Oer­tel said. “So I took a shot from out­side and it looped in. It was a lucky shot.”

“They got a quick goal and that kind of set the tone, and set us back a lit­tle bit I think,” Ke­p­ley said. “Sec­ond half we played a lot harder, had a lot more shots on goal; lot of pres­sure.”

That in­creased pres­sure al­most knot­ted the scored 8 min­utes into the sec­ond half when a Kent Is­land player struck a shot from right wing that ric­o­cheted off the un­der­side of the cross­bar and dropped near the goalline.

“I’m not so sure that one wasn’t in,” Ke­p­ley said. “If it hits the in­side of the cross­bar it’s pretty much go­ing to land in­side. But what can you say?”

Though the War­riors slipped free for a hand­ful of sec­ond-half break­aways that were rerouted or stopped by Banks, Casey Smith and the rest of an equally stingy de­fen­sive unit, Kent Is­land ap­plied the heav­ier pres­sure af­ter in­ter­mis­sion. The Bucs, who fin­ished with 19 shots, drove a num­ber of rollers through that Otwell col­lected. But other buildups from the mid­field were stopped by Eas­ton’s Ken­dal Scharch, Jada Mur­ray, Pyper Keeney, Gwen Steven­son and Lizzy Vert­er­amo.

“They re­ally stepped up. De­fense re­ally held their own,” Leach said.

“They were great,” Otwell added of her de­fen­sive mates. “Ev­ery time a ball would get through they’d step on it and get there. They re­ally saved me a bunch of times.”

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