Rams score double OT win

Published 6:27 pm Wednesday, April 20, 2011

AHOSKIE – This one had the feel of a prize fight.

And in some ways – it was.

The Ridgecroft School girls soccer team claimed a 5-4 double-overtime win over the Oakwood School Tuesday at their home pitch, Mike Bryant Field.

In the process, they broke a two-game scoreless losing streak, raised their record to 6-4 and earned their first win in Coastal Plains Independent Conference play.

Junior striker Miller Bryant, who scored the Lady Rams’ final three goals of the afternoon, fired in a breakaway with five-and-a-half minutes to play in the second overtime to secure the Ridgecroft win.

Then the defense held off a furious rally by the visiting Lady Eagles that came down to one last errant shot with time expiring.

“It was quick”, said Rams’ Head Coach Aron Martin of the spectacular finish. “We had just played the night before and all I can honestly say is I’m extremely proud of these girls right now.”

When the final whistle sounded every available Ridgecroft player – 10 plus a goal-keeper – was on the field with no substitutes left on the bench.  Already short-handed, the Rams also had to play without midfielder Hennie Larabee, who missed the game with an injury.

“She (Bryant) just decided that the game had to be won by someone and she decided it was going to be her and in the process, her team,” added Martin. “Our defenders played relentlessly today because they were under a lot of pressure. Everybody just stepped up and if I could epitomize it, a team effort is what this was because everybody gave what they had.”

Oakwood got on the scoreboard first in the seventeenth minute of play as the Eagles’ lone senior, Ellen Clark, took a pass from the right side and fired it past Rams goalie, Hayley Rivera, for a 1-0 lead.

Mary-joe Harrell got the equalizer for Ridgecroft two and a half minutes later when she took a cross from Bryant, sidestepped a defender, and kicked it past the Oakwood keeper to make the score, 1-1.

Five minutes later, at the 26-minute mark, it was Harrell again, this time with a break-away to give the Rams their first lead, 2-1.  And just one minute after that score, Bryant notched her first goal of the day as she tickled the twine to give the home team a two-goal lead.

Three minutes later at the 30-minute mark the Rams looked poised to score again off a corner kick, but Bryant’s effort clanged off the side post an young Merindy Piland’s follow shot went over the crossbar.

The next 15 minutes were played to a draw with Oakwood getting only one shot on goal that sailed wide and the 3-1 scored held through halftime.

The Eagles were the first to break through in the second half. Clark again helped her team with a free kick that bent it’s way just over the outstretched arms of the Rams keeper and reduced Oakwood’s deficit to 3-2.

The fortitude of the home team was evident in the second half as they played through their fatigue, unable to substitute and refusing to play 10 ten players.

Still it couldn’t stop Oakwood from tying the contest at the 59-minute mark when the Eagles banged in a follow-shot to make it 3-3.

Four minutes later, at the 63-minute mark, Ridgecroft was awarded a free kick and once more Bryant did the damage with a twirler that put the Rams back in front, 4-3.

But any euphoria for Ridgecroft was short-lived as Oakwood tied it once more just one minute later, 4-4.

In the final 16 minutes of scoreless play in the half, Oakwood outshot Ridgecroft, four-to-three, but the Rams defenders stepped up and kept any balls from finding the back of the net. The whistle sounded and two ten-minute extra periods came after a brief break.

The first overtime was scoreless, despite Harrell and Bryant teaming up on one attempt and Elizabeth Joyner, playing in the midfield, just missing with a shot that sailed wide.

Then came the final overtime, and neither team was in attack mode because of tiredness. But somehow, at the four-and-a-half minute mark, Bryant stole an Oakwood pass and just found an extra gear darting straight for the goal and letting her right foot claim what would be the victory.

Oakwood had three more attempts in the final five minutes, but Rivera made one big save of a shot-on-goal and the Rams defenders kept the ball out of the box, including on the final play of the game.

“It was a tough one,” said disappointed Oakwood coach Terry Noble. “I’d rather the girls play well and lose, than play poorly and win. Give us credit for coming back from down 3-1 to make a game of it.”

“They found it,” said Martin, “they just responded and I attribute that to leadership and to guts because they found enough to get it done.”