Easton squeezes past Bucs into first place
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.”