Marred by a six-game losing streak heading into its Piedmont District opener with Patrick County, Magna Vista girls soccer coach Jason Woods was hoping for a moment that his team could believe in Wednesday night.
After a dominating second-half performance against the Cougars, his team might start believing a little more.
Inside an attack-oriented second half, it was a span of a few minutes that defined the Warriors’ victory. A three-goal second half, including two goals scored just minutes apart that put the game away, helped Magna Vista snap a six-game losing streak with a 3-0 win at the Smith River Sports Complex.
Woods said it was also the first time all season that Magna Vista had a healthy lineup, and it certainly paid dividends.
“We’ve had a hard time, losing six in a row, most of them being tightly contested games,” Woods said. “Once we hit that first one, we started believing and it’s like anything else, once you start believing, it goes. I finally had a full lineup too, and that made all the difference in the world.”
Co-captain Casey Crews had a goal and an assist to lead the Magna Vista offense, and her 63rd minute strike gave the Warriors a two-goal lead midway through the final 40 minutes. Gabriel Eggleston and Tabitha Saunders added the other tallies for Magna Vista.
“We have strong outside (midfielders), so we want to use that to our advantage,” Crews said. “It was still a little nerve-racking, but once we got up by two I knew we weren’t going to lose.”
The Warriors (2-6, 1-0) utilized more width after halftime, which directly forced the Patrick County defense to open up. The Cougars’ defense stayed in good shape for the most part in the first half, keeping numbers behind the ball. In the second half though, that defense quickly became exposed.
With Patrick County (2-3-1, 0-1) having difficulty marking in the box on crosses, Magna Vista’s first two goals were byproducts of its wing play.
“Right now our biggest strength is on the outside,” Woods said. “Once we started utilizing the outside more with some smaller passes, that’s what I think opened things up.”
First, on a cross from Kinsey Johnson from the left corner, Crews’ initial shot from just in front of the penalty marker was deflected right to Eggleston on the back post for an easy tap in four minutes into the half. Eggleston could have had the opening goal in the 30th minute, but she missed a wide-open chance on the right edge of the six-yard box.
“We started working and passing more as a team, and the forwards started to push more,” said Crews of the second-half adjustments. “It took us a while, but I think we finally came together.”
After the Warriors broke the deadlock, Crews found some open space at the penalty marker and buried a left-footed shot to the side netting. The play stemmed from their sixth corner of the match, as Lauren Nance delivered a cross to the center of the 18.
“Once my defenders had to come out a little bit, they got lost going back in and couldn’t mark up quick enough,” Patrick County coach Sandra Rakes said. “We opened up a few holes that we probably shouldn’t have.”
That two-goal cushion was almost short lived, however, as Patrick County nearly converted on a corner of its own two minutes later.
On the corner, Hannah Freeman skidded a pass along the carpet to an oncoming and unmarked Amy Dollarhite at the top of the box. Dollarhite took a shot with her instep and had keeper Emilia Isa beat, but the shot skipped off the crossbar.
After the near-miss, Magna Vista put the game away a minute later. Saunders won a 50-50 challenge in the attacking third, made a straight run into the box and tucked home a well-placed shot to the inside of the right post for a 3-0 lead in the 66th minute.
Patrick County co-captain Madison Gunter almost had the equalizer in the 52nd minute and was denied her another attempt to spoil the shutout bid in the 77th.
On a dazzling individual run by Gunter on her first attempt, Isa came off her line to perfectly time Gunter’s heavy touch and close down the scoring chance. The Cougars’ main scoring threat was again denied by Isa on a breakaway chance, and the two players collided as Isa made the save. The contact resulted in Gunter favoring her ankle after the match.
“(Isa) just came back from a knee injury, so having her back made a big difference,” Woods said. “She’s a very smart keeper, and I’m really happy with how she played (tonight).”
Isa finished with six saves, while Cougars’ keeper Meredith Ratliff had five. Magna Vista held a dominating edge in shots (15-7) and corners (8-2). Eight of its 15 shots were on target and 10 of the 15 came in the second half.
Magna Vista has a nearly two weeks off until its next game on April 17 against Tunstall, which will come after spring break.