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.
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.”