A Senior Night Victory

The Lady Redskins wrapped up regular season play last Wednesday, May 1st against the Pasquotank Panthers. The previous fixture with Pasquotank was a hard fought 1-0 victory for the Redskins on the road. The game would be a good final test in preparation for playoffs and a final send-off for the seniors of the 2019 graduating class.

It had been several weeks (including spring break) and games since Manteo played against equal competition, whether for better or worse. With Pasquotank being a comparable team, Manteo would need to refocus to secure the victory. The Lady Redskins got off to a slow start as they struggled to find their focus and maximum effort.

Ten minutes into the first half, Manteo conceded a goal due to their lack of focus and discipline in their formational shape. Right back, Maria Hernandez, did well to win an initial challenge as the left winger attacked the flank. Hernandez sent the ball back out but it was quickly won by a Panther midfielder. The Manteo backline found themselves shifted out of position as the Panther striker sat alone atop the box. The midfielder quickly found the isolated striker, upon which she turned and fired a shot past the Manteo keeper, catching her off the line.

Despite going down by a score of 1-0 early on, the conceded goal was just what Manteo needed in order to refocus and begin to play at maximum effort. Manteo realized they would need to step it up to win their final regular season fixture, and they did just that by scoring two minutes after conceding the goal.

The play began with the center defensive midfielder, Ayanna Selby, winning the ball along the left midfield and finding striker, Keylin Zavala. Zavala seemed determined to make a play as soon as she was on the ball. She juked her first defender and then bullied her way down the left wing against a sturdy defender as they went shoulder to shoulder into the 18-yard box. Zavala was taken down but play continued. The defender turned to clear the ball but was met by a pressing Camryn Creef. The two collided as the ball squirted across the top of the six-yard box. Willa Brown battled three defenders for the ball, knocking it back towards Creef. Creef struck it one time quickly into the back of the net to equalize the game at 1-1.

Not long after equalizing, Manteo would look to exploit the high line of the Panther defense and utilize the speed of Creef up top. Gaby Leon began the possession with a strong challenge to win the ball and find a center midfielder, Libby Roberston. Roberston moved the ball laterally into space before playing ahead to Zavala in the center circle of midfield. Zavala again made a move to elude the first defender, picked her head up eyeing the space behind the high line, and played a well-weighted pass through the line for Creef to run on to. Creef burst through the line with ease, took three dribbles into the box and slide the ball calmly past the sliding keeper.

Manteo began to take greater control of the game with the offensive surge from Creef and the Manteo defense settled in nicely, finding more discipline within their shape.

Manteo would again take advantage of the Panther high line to capture their third goal in the first half. Roberston did well to intercept an errant pass in the backside of the midfield. She took a touch forward and picked her head up to determine her options. She saw Creef pressing the center backs at the midfield line and opted to chip the line and play Creef into space. It was a well-weight ball over the top of the line that played Creef in perfectly. Creef again took a few dribbles on her way into the box at pace. The keeper rushed out, sliding feet first in an attempt to save the ball. The slide was futile as Creef had already struck the ball past the keeper into the back of the net but the keeper’s slide led her cleats right into the top of Creef’s ankle. With a black and blue ankle, Creef would sit for the remainder of the half.

The half would end with Manteo in control by a score of 3-1.

During the half time, Manteo honored their three seniors: Camryn Creef, Maria Hernandez and Gaby Leon.

The first ten minutes of the second half was back and forth in regards to attacking opportunities for both sides. Pasquotank was desperate to get an early second-half goal to crawl back into the game and Manteo was eager to put the game away with a fourth goal.

Emma Ortega and Willa Brown did the bulk of the attacking early in the second half, often set up by the work of Zavala and Robertson. On the defensive side, Ragen Twiford and Maria Hernandez worked hard to shut down the skilled wingers for Pasquotank with Eva Klauser cleaning up any balls that squirted through.

With a swollen ankle and still in pain, Creef wanted to make the most of senior night. A hat-trick in the first half just wasn’t good enough for her. She made her way back onto the field midway through the second half and made an immediate impact on the game with her fourth goal.

The Pasquotank center back tried to clear a difficult ball sent to her at the midfield line. She sent it high in the air and it fell to Ortega not far off the midway line. Ortega made a great first touch to bring the ball down to the ground and picked her head up to see Creef making her run towards the backline. Ortega sent the ball through the high line and Creef was off to the races again. Creef took one dribble into the box and fired a shot from the penalty marker. The ball struck the inside of the right post and deflected beyond the goal line for her fourth goal of the game.

With less than two minutes to play, Ortega found herself on a breakaway up the middle. With a defender chasing behind her and the keeper rushing out to the top of the box, Ortega pushed the ball around the keeper and looked to run on to it to tap it in. As she did this, the keeper turned and obstructed her pathway to the ball without playing the ball herself. The referee signaled for an indirect kick inside the box. Ortega took the first touch on the ball and Zavala followed with a crushing shot on target. However, the keeper made a great diving save and the game would end with a 4-1 scoreline.

Game stats:

Creef: 4 goals

Roberston: 1 assist

Zavala: 1 assist

Ortega: 1 assist

After the game, Coach Cleaver stated, “I’m proud of our girls for the way they responded to going down early in the game. In fact, I think we needed that wake-up call at that moment. After that, we became focused and started playing our brand of soccer again. When we are focused and determined to play hard and win, we are an extremely good team. I look forward to making some noise in the playoffs and seeing how many charter schools we can knock out.”


Lady Redskins Are Undefeated Conference Champs

On Wednesday, April 10th, your Lady Redskins hosted the Edenton Aces for their final conference showdown of the season. Manteo sat atop the conference table in control of their own destiny with a 5-0 conference record. Edenton sat in second place but could tie for the top spot if they were able to knock off the Lady Redskins in their second fixture. With everything on the line as two good teams faced off, the anticipation was high for an exciting game.

In their previous matchup, Manteo earned a 2-0 victory by controlling the midfield and taking Edenton’s top two midfielders off the ball early and often with physical play. It proved to be a recipe for success against the Lady Aces, and Manteo would look to repeat the strategy to earn another victory.

As the game kicked off, Manteo was slow to start in the first five minutes. Both sides sluggishly warmed up in the early minutes. The slow start coincided with a plethora of throw-ins along the right flank.

Ten minutes into the game, Manteo began to pick up the tempo and started playing like the conference title was on the line. Manteo’s first look at goal came when center defensive midfielder, Gaby Leon, took control of possession in the midfield, pulled the ball back around a defender, and found the striker, Camryn Creef, outside the top of the 18-yard box. Creef turned it towards goal and fired a shot. The keeper made easy work of the long shot, but Creef was just warming up and would find her long-distance strike later in the half.

Edenton opted for a different positional approach from the previous game. In their first match-up, the Ace’s top two players played alongside each other in the center midfield position within a 4-4-2 flat formation. They kept the same formational look but moved number three out to play left midfield. They constantly looked to distribute the ball wide to number three and allow her to use her speed in open space to make her way down the flank.

Manteo’s players along the right side of their formation in Maria Hernandez, Gabby Leon, and Brisa Torres did a tremendous job all night of knocking number three off the ball by getting into the body early before she was able to reach top speed. Keeping her off the ball allowed Manteo to again control the midfield battle and dominate possession throughout the entire game.

Creef proved to be a nightmare for the Ace’s defense all night long. She often slipped into the right slot to receive the ball and then used her speed to take off past the high line defenders. She sent in several good crosses towards her partner up top, Keylin Zavala, that just missed the final fishing touch. After several missed attempts, Creef decided it was time to test the keeper again from deep.

Emma Ortega pressed a bouncing ball along the left flank to knock it over to Zavala, who showed in support. Zavala brought the ball down and played a diagonal over to Creef in the middle. Creef took one touch and then crushed it from 30 yards out. The ball was driven low and bent away from the keeper as she dove for it. It dipped just under the diving keeper and skipped into the back side netting for Manteo’s first goal of the game. It was a beautiful goal from distance that may have even surprised Creef herself, judging by the look on her face after watching it go in.

Zavala and Creef began to form quite the tandem up top. Zavala worked back into the midfield as the supporting striker while Creef held the length against the center backs. Zavala would collect in the midfield, dance around the first defender, draw the others up and then play Creef through the back line and into space. It was an effective method that provided numerous chances for the Lady Redskins and kept the Aces on their heels all night long.

Creef earned her second goal of the evening during the first half when Libby Roberston overlapped Ortega out wide on the left flank. After receiving the ball deep down the wing, Roberston cut it back and found Creef atop the box. Creef pushed it by her defender, into the box, and then from the penalty marker, she crushed it over the keepers extended hands. The ball hit the bottom of the cross ball, clanked straight down and back behind the goal-line for Manteo’s second goal.

Manteo ended the first half with a 2-0 lead and was in complete control of the game as Edenton saw sparse attempts on Manteo’s goal.

To start the second half, Creef made several diagonal runs out wide on the right flank, used her speed to blow by the left back, and then crossed balls into the box. They were all dangerous crosses that put Edenton on their heels, but Manteo could not find the finishing touch to put one of the crosses away.

Manteo really controlled the second half with dominant possession. Midfielders, Ayanna Selby and Gaby Leon shut down any and all attacks from the Aces. Any balls that squirted through the midfield were quickly cleaned up by the stout Manteo backline of Hernandez, Klauser, and Twiford.

Late in the second half, Creef’s speed allowed her in behind the backline. The center-back could not catch her from behind and opted to pull her down in the box. A penalty kick was awarded. Creef stood over the ball on the mark, struck it well, but it sailed just inches wide of the left post.

Creef was determined to obtain her hat-trick before the game came to an end and she would earn it with style. It was a beautiful counter-attacking goal that began back in the defensive box of Manteo. Edenton had thrown numbers forward in the last ditch effort to earn a goal. Edenton crossed it into the box but the ball was deflected atop the box to Zavala. Zavala dribbled out of the box, used a Ronaldo chop to beat one defender before playing a short diagonal ball to Ortega out wide. Ortega one touched passed the ball to Creef in the center of the midfield. Creef collected it and then took off on the dribble. She blew by the first defender with ease, then the second and down into the box. Just as the third defender looked to close in on the angle, she roofed it, top corner, near side.

The home side celebrated her hat-trick on the way back to midfield and the conference title as well. Manteo set themselves apart from their other conference opponents with possession-based play, and short simple passes through the midfield. For those that watched them grown throughout the season, it was clear they were the best team on the pitch within their conference.

In six conference games, Manteo scored 27 goals and only gave up 1 goal.

Game Statline:

Creef: 3 goals

Zavala: 1 assist

Coach Cleaver stated after the game, “I am incredibly proud of our girls. We set three goals at the start of the season and our first goal was to be undefeated in conference play and we have now accomplished that goal. We still have a lot of soccer left to play this season but it is nice to be able to check off this accomplishment along the way to our next two goals.”


Possession Play Puts Manteo On Top

On Wednesday, April 3rd, Manteo traveled into the small town of Camden to take on the Lady Bruins. Their previous matchup was a thriller that was won by Manteo with only two minutes remaining on the game clock. When these two conference rivals face off, the games never fail to live up to the hype. This fixture continued in this traditional sense as it was a hard fought, physical game that kept fans on the edge of their seats.

As the game kicked off, Manteo settled in on the ball quickly and began to control the tempo of the game, keeping Camden pushed back defending their own half. Camden’s back three sat deep in the defensive third as their five midfielders and supporting striker also sat back in a defensive shape. They left a lone striker holding length along Manteo’s back three defenders.

As expected, it would be a matchup of contrary styles. Manteo looked to keep their formation tight and move the ball on the ground with short, simple passes. Camden opted to sit deep defensively and send long balls to their lone striker any chance they could.

Manteo saw early looks on goal through their combination play along the right midfield and into the attacking third. Camden’s only real attacking attempt came ten minutes into the game when a Bruin midfielder sent their striker into space behind the line with a long ball. Eva Klauser found herself a step behind the striker but quickly made up the difference and temporarily muscled her off the ball but was unable to keep it on her foot on the turn. The striker made a second attempt towards goal, now in the 18-yard box, but Maria Sanchez was there to take it away and dribble the ball out of harm’s way.

Midway through the first half, Manteo earned a series of corner kicks. On the second corner, Creef and Roberston stood in the corner for the kick. Roberston lofted a ball into the box. The keeper knocked it out of the air amid a sea of bodies that swarmed, positioned and kicked at the ball. The ball bounced around and then squirted out away from the goal but it did not get far as Creef came rushing into the box to collect it. At this time, Brown was pushed from behind by a Bruin defender and knocked to the ground. The referee sounded the whistle, pointing at the penalty marker.

Keylin Zavala was called upon to take the penalty kick. She stood over the ball with confidence and took her approach at the sound of the whistle. She struck it hard and high right up the middle. The keeper flinched as the ball sailed just above her head. The goalie got both hands on the ball but it still managed to push through her hands and into the back of the net. Manteo took an important early 1-0 lead.

Shortly after her first goal, Zavala almost doubled the lead after another series of corner kicks for Manteo. The original ball from the corner was deflected back out wide but Creef ran it down and sent a low ball back atop the box to Zavala. As Zavala showed for the pass, a defender rushed out to it as well. Zavala pulled the ball back behind her plant foot and turned it back inside. With little time and space among a crowded box, Zavala struck it with her left foot, low and towards the bottom right corner of the goal. It was bound for the back of the net but the keeper made a fully extended diving save to keep the scoreline at 1-0.

Both sides felt confident going into half as Manteo controlled the game and had a lead, while Camden felt their patience in the counter-attacking long-ball game would pay off in the end.

To start the second half, Manteo continued to dominate possession even as the game became incredibly physical. Both sides would earn a yellow card and numerous fouls throughout the game.

The Manteo side held their breath on a Camden corner kick that led to chaos in the box. The ball dropped into the six-yard box off the corner kick, and bodies commenced all around the ball. Both sides frantically kicked at the ball for what seemed like an eternity, though it lasted no more than several seconds. The Manteo defense was determined to keep the ball out of the net and in the end, Courtney Daniels came up with the ball somehow. Smiling faces emerged from the Manteo side and everyone drew a deep breath of relief.

Midway through the second half, Manteo took complete control of the game with their second goal. The goal was a beautiful team goal that was devised through all layers of the formation. Selby broke up possession along the right midfield, allowing Roberston to take control of the ball and square it over to center defensive midfielder, Gaby Leon. Leon kept the flow of the movement and found Brisa Torres out wide on the left wing. Torres beat her defender and turned the ball in going forward. She played Zavala on a short diagonal and Zavala one touched it on up to Creef. Creef looked to play Brown through as she made her run down the right flank. The ball deflected off a defender and found Brown in the end as she ran on to the ball, and struck it one time. She hit it perfectly back across the goal and into the far left side netting. Manteo celebrated the 2-0 lead, knowing they could hold strong for the rest of the game with the lead.

In the remaining twenty minutes, Manteo continued to control the game and Camden only saw two more counter-attacking opportunities that did not resonate into formidable threats. Manteo’s passing game became stronger as the game went on. They formed beautiful combinations that worked the ball down the field with short one and two touch passing. Manteo’s style of possession play has been improving throughout the year and is now allowing them to control the game against solid opponents.

The final whistle blew with Manteo winning by the score of 2-0. This moves Manteo to 5-0 in conference play with one conference game remaining against Edenton. Edenton sits in second place behind Manteo and the Lady Redskins will look to finish strong against the Aces next Wednesday night in Manteo.

Game Statline:

Zavala: 1 goal

Brown: 1 goal

Creef: 1 assist

Coach Cleaver stated after the game, “This was a huge win for us to really take control of the conference table. We have set ourselves up nicely with this win. Our girls played with heart and passion tonight and kept their composure at difficult times. I am proud of them for that. Our passing tonight was unbelievable. There were several combinations that were simply beautiful. We are getting better and better as a team.”