W. Branch too quick for Lady Warriors

Published 10:31 am Tuesday, May 12, 2009

About five minutes into his team’s Monday game with visiting Western Branch High, Nansemond River girls soccer coach Darryl Yandle bellowed across the field at his players, who were already down a goal.

“You’re playing reaction soccer!” Yandle hollered. “Step to the ball!”

It was an accurate diagnosis that stood up throughout the game. While Nansemond River needed a victory to maintain slim hopes of reaching the Southeastern District’s four-team tournament, it was the Bruins who played with more oomph in their cleats.

Email newsletter signup

Utilizing quickness to the ball and superior skills once on it, Western Branch cruised to a 3-1 victory that could have been a rout if not for Warriors goaltender Rachel McManus stopping two penalty shots. The Bruins also hit the crossbar with a shot and missed a wide-open net on another.

“The anticipation wasn’t there for us,” Yandle said. “Western Branch is a good team and we didn’t show up with our ‘A’ game. We stood and watched them run past us and then we tried to do something about it.”

Nansemond River was further handicapped because it began the game without standout sweeper Ashley Evans in the lineup. Yandle said Evans had an unexcused practice absence Friday and was therefore benched during the opening 10 minutes. Western Branch opened the scoring in the second minute on an Amelia Wallace-Zocher run through the left side of the box that concluded with the midfielder chipping the ball past a charging McManus.

“Ashley’s been my rock all season long,” Yandle said. “If she’d been in there, that goal probably wouldn’t have happened.”

The Bruins stuck for a 2-0 lead on Darsey Renz’s long shot under the crossbar 10 minutes after halftime. Less than two minutes later, Hayley Gillies headed in a Mallory Seay corner kick, leaving Yandle shaking his head.

“That goal really upset me because (Gillies) went up unmarked and untouched,” the coach said. “We’ve worked on that all season but it hasn’t sunk in.”

The home crowd came to life when Shanna Coriano scored into an open net with 18 minutes to play, finishing off a scramble in the center of the Bruins’ box that saw teammates Evans and Malika Rashid touch the ball first. McManus gave the Warriors fans even more to cheer when she denied Wallace-Zocher on penalty kicks two minutes apart, the first with 10 minutes to play. Still, Nansemond River dropped to 8-6 overall and 4-4 in district play.

“We’re in sixth place now and our playoff dreams are pretty much gone,” Yandle said. “But we have one game left and that’s tomorrow against Great Bridge. We’ll be playing for respect.”