PEMBROKE — In a match controlled by the Purnell Swett girls soccer team’s offense for much of the night, it just took one bounce of the ball to change the complex of the game on Tuesday.
On one of Lumberton’s rare scoring chances on the night midway through the second half, a rebounded shot for a goal was enough for the Lady Pirates to continue their undefeated streak against their cross-county rivals in a 1-0 Sandhills Athletic Conference win.
“Defense won this game for us tonight,” Lumberton coach Kenny Simmons said. “It was a struggle. Swett’s got a good team. Typical of our season so far, we didn’t produce a lot of offense tonight, but we got the goal that we needed. … That’s soccer, man.”
While the scoring chances were few and far between for Lumberton (5-4, 3-3 SAC), it took a corner kick in the 65th minute that ricocheted in the box off several Lady Pirates and Lady Rams before Sherry Lay found herself in prime position for the game-winning score.
In all the chaos happening that led to Purnell Swett’s (6-4, 2-4 SAC) goalkeeper Monica Lowry out of position, Lay had a simple approach to giving her team the win.
“It was an open shot so I just took it,” Lay said. “I was just trying to look for the ball, and when it came to me I shot it in.”
For much of the contest, it seemed as though the Lady Rams would be the ones to find the back of the net first with attack, after attack being a pass here or a move there away from ending a run with a score. But the Lumberton back line and senior goalkeeper Emma Barnes stood tall.
“We knew they were going to be a good offensive team and a good defensive team so our strategy was to not let anything by and keep everything in front,” Barnes said. “(The goal) did boost the team’s confidence overall, and it did help me feel a little confidence and take the edge off.”
The Lady Rams’ attacks started to pick up in the second half, but they couldn’t convert. Three times Purnell Swett lined up for corner kicks, and none resulted on a substantial chance to score.
“We were moving the ball around, but we couldn’t finish that final pass to get the shot that we wanted,” Purnell Swett coach Alaric Strickland said. “It was just little things like that that didn’t come together. They took advantage of their one opportunity and we didn’t take advantage of ours.”
Five minutes after the Lady Pirates took the lead on the Lay goal, Purnell Swett’s Abi Lowry had perhaps her best attempt to knot the score after she broke free of the back line and took a shot on goal. Barnes stepped in the way to corral the shot, like she did the whole night, even in the final five minutes when a barrage of shot attempts from the Lady Rams came her way.
“She was giving us trouble all night and I just knew to watch out from her,” Barnes said. “It was very nerve-wracking, and I knew just to keep calm and keep the strategy of keep everything in front.”
Purnell Swett plays at home against Richmond and Lumberton travels to Hoke tonight.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.