Sometimes your best effort falls just short.
While McMinn County pooched a shot just overhead into the back net in double overtime for a 1-nil victory in the 94th minute against Cleveland, the …
Sometimes your best effort falls just short.
While McMinn County pooched a shot just overhead into the back net in double overtime for a 1-nil victory in the 94th minute against Cleveland, the star of the night lost no credit whatsoever.
Lady Raider senior keeper Lauren Stutzman displayed her sharp instincts and denied shots left and right for a season-high 17 saves in her team’s District 5-AAA opener at home Tuesday night.
Whether reading right where her attacker was going with the ball, lining her back line of the defense up, or diving to make one-handed stops, both coaches after the game simply could not ignore her special night.
“We are definitely blessed with an exceptional high school goal keeper,” CHS head coach Miles Christian said. “That’s why she is committed to Lee University to play D-II soccer. She and the rest of our team played their guts out tonight, and I am proud of every one of them.”
While the Lady Cherokees (6-1-1, 2-0 5-AAA) were only able to land one of their 20-plus shots on goal, an opposing coach often yelled out on several occasions ‘the keeper is too good to shoot on from outside of the box!”
Even when close, Stutzman turned away great looks on goal throughout the night, and sacrificed her body on a night where she had to stay in front of the ball with a constant light rain making the playing conditions slippery.
She had nine saves in the final 36 minutes, including both overtimes.
Her stop of the night came in the first half when Stutzman dove to her right to somehow stop a hot-roller with just her right arm from finding the back left of the net 14 minutes in.
In a match McMinn won 7-0 a season ago, a sign of great respect was demonstrated as the Lady Cherokee’s winning goal keeper sprinted down field to shake Stutzman’s hand after nearly a 100-minute scoreless draw.
“I think what will help us go further from here is that we have competed every second of every game and for 94 minutes tonight,” Stutzman said. “That’s what we will need in the district tournament and this is a good learning point for us.”
The Lady Raiders (4-5, 0-1 5-AAA) nearly had a chance for victory to begin the second overtime, as they broke free down the left side, but could not land one of their eight shots on goal.
With strong defense of late, even in a 2-1 loss to Soddy-Daisy last Thursday, Cleveland has not lacked effort whatsoever.
The Lady Raiders defense led by Stutzman, Madison Dasher, Erin Stutzman, Lauren Proctor, Kaitlin Goodman and Marissa Couch has only allowed a dozen goals this season and posted three shutouts.
“I challenge the girls every day to be disciplined defensively and to be aggressive,” Coach Christian said. “I told them I wouldn’t change anything they did tonight because they did exactly what I wanted them to.”
With composure in front of the net and a tough to break keeper, Cleveland hopes the breaks will turn its way in the second half and come district tournament time.
They will now look to make some noise in the Cleveland Classic (Thursday-Saturday) at the Greater Cleveland Soccer Complex.
First up will be another big test against district foe Walker Valley at 8 p.m. Thursday night, which will be followed up with contests against Livingston at 5 p.m. Friday and East Hamilton at 11 a.m. Saturday.
The Lady Raiders will look to bring home their first win of the season at home, as they have just played three matches on its friendly confines so far.
“We’ve got to get past that wall holding us back, but we are being challenged and I think it will prepare us for some bigger contests ahead,” Christian said. “Walker Valley will be a tough group and they have some outstanding players, but we are going to give them all they can ask for.”
The Lady Mustangs drew 1-1 with Baylor Tuesday night as the program’s all-time leading scorer Taylor Ellis scored their lone goal off an assist from Caitlin Dickson
WVHS (4-1-2, 1-0) will play Blackman Friday at 8 p.m., and Cookeville Saturday at 9 a.m., as well in the Cleveland Classic.
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