It was Silverdale’s Lady Seahawks who came out of the gate early, controlling possession and moving the ball well for the first 10 minutes of play.
Around the 10th minute, Cleveland started to put the pieced together, utilizing a possession-based game with quick counters up the Silverdale sidelines.
The tactic paid dividends in the 21st minute when freshman forward DeBien rocketed past the Seahawk defense and found the back of the net for the Lady Raiders’ first goal of the season.
Two minutes later junior Kendall Hamilton followed with a shot on goal. While the ball had plenty of pace it was sent right into the waiting Silverdale keeper’s arms.
During the 31st minute the Seahawk offense put freshman keeper Brina Lovelace to the test. Lovelace was forced to start as keeper for the Lady Raiders after starter Jenna Scoggins was unavailable for the match.
With bodies piled in the Cleveland box the ball careened around the front of goal, but Lovelace kept her focus and wrapped up a ricocheting shot before it could make its way to the scoreboard.
“Hats off to Brina tonight. We missed the clean sheet, but she played a heck of a match,” stated Cleveland head coach Andy Byrd postgame.
With three minutes to play left in the half, DeBien looked to have another score, but the shot was pushed just wide of the far post, letting Silverdale fans breathe a sigh of relief.
The half came to a close with Cleveland holding the 1-nil lead and really establishing their brand of play on the field.
Lady Raider possession continued when the second half got under way. Great passing down the wings coupled with a stalwart defense had Lady Seahawk players seemingly at a loss, and all the while Cleveland continued to pepper the Silverdale goal with quality shots.
In the 49th minute sophomore Sohara Perez Gomez volleyed a shot that was both well executed and well placed, but the Lady Seahawk keeper made a leaping, fingertip save to keep the score at 1-nil.
Hope Haas got into the action a minute later, with the Cleveland attack showing no sign of relenting. Haas put plenty of pace on the ball, but sent it high of the goal.
Silverdale struck back on the counter, moving the ball very quickly downfield. The resulting shot was pushed just wide of the far post, keeping the Lady Seahawks off the board.
Junior Lorne Conn showed she was dangerous from range in the 55th minute when she launched a shot from 35 yards out that had plenty of effort behind it but was right at the keeper.
Hamilton had another great look on the Lady Raiders’ next possession. She had the defense completely beat inside the Silverdale box, but another athletic, sprawling save by the Lady Seahawk keeper stymied the attempt.
Just when it looked like the Silverdale keeper had really settled in for the long haul, DeBien broke free again, and in the 59th minute of play made the score 2-nil Lady Raiders.
Four minutes later the freshman striker notched the first hat trick of her high school career to put Cleveland up by three goals.
“Getting a hat trick to start the season is nice. Sam is a great little player for us. She did a great job, and the team did a great job getting her the ball and maintaining possession. It was a group effort with a lot of athleticism all around,” said Byrd.
But, as the minutes ticked down Lady Raider legs started to get heavy, and Silverdale sensed the flagging energy and exploited it.
With 12 minutes left to play, the Lady Seahawks made a concentrated push up the field and found the back of the onion bag for the first time in the match, making it a 3-1 game.
Encouraged by the goal the home team rallied and really started pushing the Cleveland defense to the max.
In the 74th minute the Lady Seahawks struck again, making it a one-goal match and stealing the majority of the momentum on the field.
Lovelace finished strong in her rookie debut in goal when she made a quality save in the closing minutes to preserve the lead. Both squads jostled back and forth as the clock ticked down, and as the whistle sounded Cleveland was able to escape with the 3-2 victory.
“I think we are starting to get the hang of things a little bit. We were a little off-kilter dealing with not having Jenna tonight. Everyone out there looked a little timid, but we just focused on playing our game, and we ended up getting a good result,” Byrd stated.
Cleveland will take the pitch again Friday to participate in a tournament at Chattanooga Christian, where the Lady Raiders will open against Science Hill.