Your Manteo High School Lady Redskins opened their 2020 varsity soccer season with a non-conference match against the Currituck Lady Knights. Manteo expected it to be a difficult first game against a strong opponent as the Knights bested the Redskins last year by scores of 9-0 both times. However, Manteo went into the game with confidence and belief after a strong showing against Currituck in a friendly round-robin scrimmage last week. Aside from that, for teams, it is a new year with new players.
The game kicked off on a cool early March evening, under cloudy skies with heat lightning dancing in the distant sky. Manteo opted to set up in a more defensive 4-5-1 formation, sacrificing an attacker for an extra defender to combat the strong wing play of the Lady Knights.
Currituck took control of possession early on and would dominate the run of play for much of the game. Manteo’s goal-keeper, Courtney Daniels, was tested in the first couple of minutes after the right midfielder of the Knights drove the ball wide down the flank and into the 18-yard box before playing a ball across the box on the ground. The Knight’s striker timed her run well and looked to hit it the first time but Daniels was quick off of her line, cut the angle down and made a terrific kick save to knock the ball back out of the box.
The Manteo backline did a great job of staying compact and working together to combat overloads and call out runners through the middle. The Lady Knights may have found several attempts on goal in the first half, but they were all heavily contested attempts that allowed Daniels to make the needed saves.
Fifteen minutes into the game, a free-kick was awarded to the Knights along the left flank in the Manteo defensive third. Manteo held the 18-yard line while awaiting the kick. The free-kick was curled into the box, towards the back post, just over the initial line of defenders. Kerry Chavarria read the ball well and dropped in to make a play on it. She took the ball off her chest, yet it fell directly to Currituck’s center-defensive midfielder. She quickly struck the ball one time before the Manteo defense had a second to react. The ball found the back of the net from twelve yards out and put the Knights up by a score of 1-0.
Manteo regrouped and dug their heels in to stay in the game. Daniels continued to come up with big saves, including a diving save to collect the ball on the goal line just before it could roll in that had resulted from a Knight’s corner kick.
Manteo struggled to connect their passes from the midfield into their offensive third. Willa Brown, the lone Redskin striker, found herself isolated up top and unable to receive many balls. Manteo looked to combo down the flanks to then cross the ball into Brown.
Manteo’s best offensive look of the first half came when Emma Ortega and Libby Robertson combined passes off a throw-in down the right flank to lead to a beautiful Robertson cross targeting Brown in the box. Both Brown and the goalkeeper fought for the ball as it dropped into the six-yard box. The ball fell between the two as they spun around, battling for position and the right to play the ball. The ball was eventually popped out towards the top of the box as Brown was unable to locate the ball behind her. It spun awkwardly just past a crashing Amy Rios-Tovar but Ragen Twiford timed her run into the box well and got a left foot on the ball for a shot on target. The shot was bound for goal with the goalie out of position but a recovering Currituck defender that was dropping to the goal line was able to get a touch on the ball to keep it out of the net and clear it away from danger.
The away side breathed a sigh of relief and Manteo drew a bit of confidence in their near-miss, now understanding their ability to equalize.
Manteo entered half time still down by a score of 1-0. The home side talked tactics on how to defend more efficiently at the back while looking to send numbers forward in attack when given the opportunity.
The second half began much as the first half went. The Knights dominated the ball while the Redskins stayed compact at the back. Manteo did look to get forward with more numbers, using their double pivots to push forward behind the center-attacking midfielder. This left their back four to contend with their strikers.
After a Manteo attack that resulted in a collection of the ball by the Knight’s goalkeeper, the keeper sent a long and high punt to the midline. The ball bounced high over the center backs of Manteo’s backline as the Knight’s striker rushed through to get on the ball and direct it towards goal. Eva Klauser recovered well on the attacker to get shoulder to shoulder with her as they both entered the top of the box. Daniels rushed off her line to contest the ball. The striker looked to shoot early, but Daniels made a slight deflection with her leg that sent the ball rolling off to the side of the 18-yard box. Manteo’s right-back, Brisa Torres, was running back into the box in recovery and was able to get a touch on the ball but knocked the ball back into the center of the box. The striker beat Klauser, Barker, and Daniels to the ball to knock it into the back of the net to give the Knights a 2-0 lead.
Manteo continued to fight hard through the rest of the second half but they began to run out of gas. Tired legs were unable to connect passes and run down through balls to create any really dangerous attacking chances.
The game ended in a 2-0 loss for the Lady Redskins.
Daniels was named the player of the match as she posted 15 huge saves that kept the Redskins in the game.
Coach Cleaver stated after the game, “I was pleased with our overall performance for our first game. Tactically, we were trying to apply things we have worked on, we were just unable to execute them. We just kept missing the connection of final passes to breach the attacking third, coming out of the midfield. Defensively, I thought our backline did a great job and Daniels was a star behind them. Our midfield shape needs some fine-tuning but we will get it. We certainly need to find our team fitness going forward in order to play with top-quality teams like Currituck, but I expect us to do well in our second game against Northeastern.”