Lady Crusaders overcome Cyclones and cold
Grace Christian head coach Chris Pratt spent a few stretches of the first half letting Madison Bolen, his standout midfielder, know she was being too unselfish.
By halftime, Bolen had taken and buried two long-range strikes and changed a scoreless game in which both the Lady Crusaders and visiting Community Christian had close calls to take the lead into a 2-0 Grace Christian advantage.
The Lady Crusaders (5-0, 2-0) went on to a 3-1 victory Tuesday afternoon, their first regular-season win versus Community Christian ever.
While only two games into the Carolina Christian Conference season, the win Tuesday - as the Lady Crusaders and Lady Cyclones fought through wet and cold conditions - is already key Pratt said.
"The girls have set the goal of winning the conference, so this was a big step, a big statement, toward that goal," Pratt said.
Grace Christian had more of the ball and more shots in the early minutes, but it didn't pay off with a goal. Jazmine Urrutia dribbled into the box and arced a shot off the crossbar in the eighth minute.
Lady Cyclone attacking wound up giving the Lady Crusaders room to run and counterattack a few minutes later as Kyndle Wallace and Bolen got the ball out of Grace's defensive end and Bolen found forward Torie Boyte on a sprint, only for the Lady Cyclone keeper to win the one on one play 15 yards off the goal line.
Grace Christian keeper Victoria Druther had to make a one on one save, tipping away a shot near the top of her penalty box in the 23rd minute, though a foul on the play gave the Lady Cyclones a dangerous free kick, which was driven just over the crossbar.
Community Christian had another free kick, this one being a chipped ball and nearly a goal in a scramble near the left post, a couple minutes later.
The Lady Crusaders regained possession but still didn't look threatening on the Community goal until Bolen struck from nowhere, or at least about 30 yards out toward the right sideline.
Controlling a pass from Urrutia, Bolen created space to drive a shot over the keeper and just inside the far, left post. From two good Lady Cyclone cracks at taking the lead, the Lady Crusaders were suddenly ahead 1-0.
"Actually, Madison didn't have a very good start," Pratt said, "and that first goal got her going. It got her into the game more, and then that free kick, it was unbelievable."
The Lady Crusaders controlled practically all of the action from taking the lead through the rest of the opening half. In the 36th minute, Boyte's speed with the ball caused a Lady Cyclone foul outside the top of the box, about 26 yards from goal. Bolen lined a perfectly-struck shot under the crossbar for a 2-0 Lady Crusader lead.
The Lady Crusaders added to their lead in the 51st minute. On the run counterattacking through midfield, Bridgette Angeles played a great ball between defenders for Boyte on the run. With a sliding touch before the keeper closed in, Boyte tucked the ball into the net for a 3-0 lead.
The Lady Cyclones got on the board, with a free kick, then the rebound from a shot off the free kick, in the 54th minute.
Grace Christian finished with a 13-3 advantage in shots on goal and a 19-7 margin in overall shots.
Pratt was pleased with how his team pressured the visitors, both to create attacking chances and limit Community's offensive chances. To rise to the top of the conference, or beyond, there's the right mentality to go with good hustle. Topping a good opponent in rough conditions helps.
"I'm really proud of the girls," he said. "They're really believing in themselves right now."
Grace Christian will host Fayetteville Homeschool at 5 p.m. Thursday and play at neighborhood-rival Lee Christian, in a CCC match, at 4 p.m. Friday.