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Stuck in the middle with blue: Lady Eagles struggle to find scoring chances in loss to Lady Wolves
BY Kevin Hageland, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Allen girls soccer team (2-3-2 in district) had the first and last quality scoring chances Tuesday night versus Plano West with sophomore Morgan Cherry in the 2nd minute and freshman Marissa Kinsey in the 79th minute.
The middle 77 minutes, however, largely belonged to the Lady Wolves in a 2-0 win.
"I thought we came out flat in the first half," said Kevin Albury, Allen head coach. "West is a great team, but maybe we gave them a little too much respect."
"West has finesse, movement and experience, so we were trying to restrict their time and space," Albury said, "and that early goal really hurt us."
"We weren't too strong in those first five minutes," added Carley Phillips, West head coach, "so we were lucky to get that goal."
No such luck was needed on the next score.
West, which continually held possession on Allen's side of the field in the first half while the Lady Eagles struggled to reach the attacking third, went up 2-0 with 14:36 remaining in the half when sophomore Ashley Smith dished a quick pass to senior Brooke Ramsier, who went top shelf with a rocket from 29 yards.
"That was just a world-class goal," Albury said. "Nobody was stopping that one."
Allen senior goalkeeper Nicole Limpert would make a pair of saves before the break though, including a diving stop in the 32nd minute to keep the margin at 2-0 heading into the break.
But as is often the case with soccer coaches, that specific differential was not enough for Phillips.
"We knew we had to keep attacking because Allen needed points in this match," she said. "They needed to get some momentum, so I told the girls to be prepared for them to throw it all at us."
Allen's forwards were shut down in the first half, thanks in part to West senior defender Midori Rinkliff (who was continually breaking up passes), so the team changed shapes to get the midfielders more involved.
"We also challenged the girls at the half," Albury said. "Told them to play with more emotion and to get forward more."
That tactic worked as the Lady Eagles progressed down the pitch in the second half, picking up a corner kick from senior Hailey Jensen in the 47th minute and a solid 22-yard look from freshman Kaylee Davis in the 64th minute that went just high.
"We took some chances in the second half," Albury said. "I think it paid off by giving us some good looks while we also restricted them more defensively."
The Lady Wolves, who had trouble with their footing in the second half, nearly upped the lead to 3-0 in the 69th minute as sophomore Nicole Smith's 20-yard shot went off the crossbar.
Allen had its own close call in the 79th minute.
There, Kinsey broke free down the right side and took a shot from 16 yards that was punched over the bar by West's diving senior keeper, Claire Wheatley.
"I had to make sure I had my angle right," Wheatley said. "And then I had to make sure I got the ball over the crossbar, so I hit it as hard as I could."
That maintained a clean sheet as West wrapped up the 2-0 victory moments later.
With the win, the Lady Wolves clinched at least a share of the District 10-5A Title. West (18-0-2 overall) can pick up its first outright championship in at least seven years Friday when hosting McKinney at 7:30 p.m. from Clark East in its last game before Spring Break.
"We've been talking about going into Spring Break strong and finishing district strong," Phillips said, "because we want to be peaking at the right time."
Allen needs a strong finish too as it leads Plano East and Plano Senior by three points for the last playoff spot. The Lady Eagles are on the road Friday versus McKinney Boyd.
"These next three games are crucial," Albury said. "Losing to East (3-2 on Friday) hurt us, but we have to roll up our sleeves because this is still on us. If we want to be in the playoffs, we have to go out there and earn it."
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