Sometimes it is the little things that make a huge difference. In soccer, a single position change can change the momentum of the match. These minor changes oftentime go unnoticed, but from a coach’s perspective they can win or lose matches.
On Wednesday night in Ronda, East Wilkes trailed North Wilkes 1-0 in the 60th minute of a back-and-forth match that was won in the middle of the pitch. In the 57th minute, East Wilkes Head Coach Rodney Wagoner moved Christa Burchette from sweeper for right wing to get her more involved.
Three minutes later, the Cards broke through with their first goal of the evening and would go on to score two more in extra time to top the Vikings 3-2.
“It all started when we moved Christa from defense to right wing to try and get her more touches,” said Wagoner. “We were firing shots at the net for so long, I knew eventually one would roll through and having her speed out there really changed things for the better.”
Burchette’s speed on the wing certainly stretched out the condensed Viking defense. Her effort running down long balls in the second half of the match opened up space for East’s mid-fielders and forwards to break through the back line.
The Viking defense was enjoying a lessened workload in the back after Rosa Munoz-Maya and Lauryn Turner (two forwards) returned from injury.
Both Munoz-Maya and Turner put pressure on East in the midfield and toward the net. Munoz-Maya scored what was then the go-ahead goal in extra time, and Turner assisted on Gretta Silva-Ane’s goal in the 13th minute.
“The last time we played them we did not have Rosa or Lauryn available,” said North Wilkes Head Coach Ed Martin. “They are basically our offense, so because of that we were able to play them much better today.”
It was those two forwards who kept the momentum on the Vikings’ side, but when Wagoner moved Burchette to right wing, East stole the momentum and the game.
In the 60th minute, it was a wild shot and rebound that got East back into the game.
Melia Higgins fired a shot that squarely hit the left post and rebounded to the feet of Ciara Pierce. Pierce, who was being bombarded by North defenders, quickly gathered herself and found an open Shelia Aguilar for the goal.
Aguilar’s goal tied the score at 1-1, with 12 minutes remaining. It took 60 minutes for the two teams to find the net twice, but the 32 minutes that followed saw one goal from North and two from East.
“You can’t come closer to winning and still lose,” said Martin. “It went back and forth because we are evenly matched, so when it gets to overtime anyone can win… Both teams fought and scratched for the win, we just came up a little short.”
As exciting as the first two halves were, it was the extra time that impressed the most.
After the first 10-minute half of extra time, both teams had scored one more goal. North’s came from Munoz-Maya, and East’s came from Abby Reeves.
Reeves’s shot just barely slipped by North keeper, Savannah Billings, who dove to the turf in attempt to stop the equalizer. Billings came up just short and Reeves re-tied the game with nine seconds left in the first half of extra time.
As spectacular as Reeves’s goal was, the highlight of the game for the Cardinals was the game-winner.
A tripping foul five yards to the right of North’s 18-yard box set up a free kick for Brooke Schubart.
After the Vikings set up a three-person wall, Schubart chipped a lofty shot over a jumping Billings that just squeaked between Billings’ gloves and the crossbar.
Shubart’s strike came 22 yards from the goal line, but 10 yards away stood a roughly five-and-a-half feet Viking wall and on top of that, Billings stands at 6 foot 1 with an even longer wingspan. At the peak of her jump, Billings had reached over the crossbar, but because of the precision of Schubart’s shot, East won the game.
East now stands at 5-7-1 in the Mountain Valley Athletic Conference and will close out the season tonight in Millers Creek.
North falls to 2-11 in conference play and will finish their season at Alleghany tonight as well.