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Central blanks University High in regular-season finale

Jeff Birchfield • Oct 10, 2019 at 9:56 PM

Sullivan Central kept up the pressure to end the regular season on a winning note Thursday night.

After multiple scoring opportunities, Noemi Morales finally broke through with a hard strike in the 60th minute to lift the Lady Cougars to a 2-0 win over University High in non-conference girls soccer action at Winged Deer Park.

For the contest, the Lady Cougars (6-7) outshot the Lady Bucs 20-7, recording a 9-1 advantage in the first half.

Five minutes after the first goal, Gracie Harrington had a perfectly placed ball to Loren Hensley, who gave a nice boot with her left foot for the second score.

“We have really been struggling offensively. We played Sullivan South Tuesday and lost 2-0 despite the way we outshot them,” Central coach Emily Robinette said. “Finally putting those two goals in, I think it will give us the confidence we need going into the postseason.

“That second goal, Gracie has never played soccer before, but she has had several great passes this year. I put her in and she got the job done. She passed it to Lauren who finished it for us.”

It was a frustrating night for University High coach Ryann Williams after her team ended the regular season on a sour note. The Lady Bucs (10-3-3) missed some good scoring opportunities late. Makenna Oiler’s penalty kick went wide left. Carmen Ellis had a corner kick stay outside the net and another shot went over the goal.

Ellis led the Lady Bucs with three shots, followed by Oiler with two shots. Still, it was an uncharacteristic performance from a team that had been shut out only one other time this season.

“Mentally, we were groggy and we weren’t there,” Williams said. “I was very frustrated because to lose and play well, I’m OK with that. To go out there, not play our game and not be focused, that’s where my disappointment comes from. We didn’t rise to the effort of our competitors.”

One bright spot for University High was the play of goalkeeper Shannon Willard, who finished with over a dozen saves.

“Our goalkeeper was like a phoenix rising from the ashes,” Williams said. “She fought and kept us in it. I told the girls they should thank her because she’s the reason we stuck in there as long as we did.”

Morales paced Central with five shots and Rylie Patrick had four. The Lady Cougars missed two close calls in the first half when Emma Niebruegge’s shot hit the crossbar and Hensley couldn’t slip one into the corner of the goal.

It was a relief for Morales to break through with the first goal.

“The first half, we hustled so hard and it was devastating to see that we didn’t score,” she said. “The second half, we stuck together and we finally put a couple in. I was kind of frustrated that our shots weren’t going in, but their goalie played amazing. Once we put that one in, it felt amazing.”

NEXT UP

Sullivan Central will host Unicoi County in the first round of the District 1-AA tournament on Monday. University High takes on the winner of Chuckey-Doak and West Greene next Thursday in the District 1-A tournament.

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