Lady Crusaders open season with 4-0 win
Working to improve on the most successful season in program history, Grace Christian’s girls soccer team opened with a 4-0 victory over visiting Kerr-Vance Academy on a chilly Friday afternoon.
The Lady Crusaders went 10-9-1 and reached the 16-school NCISAA 1A State Tournament last season. The win total was a new program high. Going beyond simply making the state tourney is a goal this season said head coach Chris Pratt.
Grace didn’t lose much as far as numbers due to graduation, but the Lady Crusaders are trying to replace two outstanding players in back Brittany Iker and leading scorer and all-around player Amanda Norris, Pratt said.
Goals were taken care of, at least one match into the season, by eighth-grader Madison Bolen who tallied all four Lady Crusader goals, all by halftime.
Bolen, already an experienced returner at forward and midfielder from last season, struck from all angles for four scores in a 26-minute span and came close two or three more times throughout the match.
Bolen’s first goal was unassisted off a Lady Crusader corner, her third goal, coming in the 35th minute, was practically straight off a corner kick.
With a powerful strike and help from a steady wind at the Lady Crusader back for the opening half, Bolen’s corner curved right onto the goal line where the Kerr-Vance keeper fumbled a catch deflecting it into the net.
Bolen also struck from long range, with a 30-yard strike from deep along the right flank close to the sideline in the 18th minute.
In the last minute of the half, Kaycee Murr’s flip-throw throw in got the ball to Bolen along the top of the Kerr-Vance penalty box. Bolen patiently controlled the ball until getting space for a clear shot which she drove just under the crossbar for a 4-0 Grace lead.
Kerr-Vance played the Lady Crusaders more evenly in the second 40 minutes.
Senior goalkeeper Sarah Beard kept the shutout though. While the Lady Crusader roster is made up of lots of freshmen and eighth-graders, Pratt said his defense has good continuity together and they believe they’ll improve on last season.
All of the Lady Crusaders are getting into soccer season on the fly though, thanks largely to Grace’s long, successful basketball season. Seven of the starters for opening day played hoops, too.
“So we haven’t been able to put a lot of work in together,” Pratt said, “which makes today more exciting.”
“While we lost key players, we’ve gained new players who are already adding to the team and are really big surprises,” Pratt said.
With Carolina Christian Conference matches, along with non-league games against more good 1A and 2A programs, Pratt says his team has a tough schedule ahead to get to a new school record for wins and the state tourney goal.
The Lady Crusaders host Friendship Christian Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. Grace Christian’s slate has six games on it before moving into CCC play.