Things you discover in defeat one night can sometimes open the door to a win the next time out.
In the closing minutes of the second half in his team’s 2-0 loss to Indian Land on Monday, Lugoff-Elgin girls’ soccer coach Carl Spoto said his team started clicking in all facets of the game. Two nights later, the Lady Demons picked up where they left off in blanking rival Camden, 3-0, in a contest played at Zemp Stadium.
Calling Wednesday’s win over the Lady Bulldogs the best match he has seen his team play in his four seasons at the Lady Demon helm, Spoto was quick to flash a smile after his girls improved to 3-2 on the season.
“We hadn’t been playing well,” Spoto said, “but we had the game with Indian Land on Monday night and were losing 2-0 so, we switched some things up in the last 10 to 15 minutes. We really got some stuff going both offensively and defensively and had some personnel in different spots. Then, we had a really nice practice (Tuesday) and, boy, it really continued into tonight.
“Our offense looked the way it looked (at the end of Monday’s pairing) and our two inside (midfielders) were playing the ball well and we were serving it out wide.”
The visitors would get a goal from USC-Beaufort signee and forward Bailey Lewter in the game’s fifth minute which held up throughout the 80-minute affair.
Second-year Lady Bulldog head coach Aaron Mayes said the quick score did little to help his team’s confidence in playing against an experienced L-E squad which lists 11 seniors on its roster.
“Once they got that first goal,” Mayes said, “I thought we were on our back foot after that.”
Lewter’s goal was set up by an assist from fellow senior Katie Hoffman. Lewter corralled the pass on the left side of CHS keeper Riley Shelburne and then sent a screamer into the right hand side of the net which gave L-E netminder Dena Stanley all the support she would need.
In the 33rd minute, Shelburne came up big in making a sliding save on a shot from Whitney Osborne which kept the deficit at one goal after a series in which play was contested in the CHS zone. It was one of eight saves for Shelburne.
Stanley, a senior, was called on to make just three saves on the night. The one she never laid a glove on represented Camden’s best scoring opportunity. The shot came with less than six minutes remaining in the opening half when Lady Bulldog freshman forward Kate Jones sent a left-footed liner from some 12 yards away which glanced off the top of the crossbar.
“That would have given us some confidence,” Mayes said of heading into the locker room with the match tied rather than down 1-0.
Camden played the final 50-plus minutes minus junior forward Venus Sumpter, who sustained an ankle injury in the closing 11 minutes of the first half. She was helped off the field and would not return to the game.
Sumpter’s absence left the Lady Bulldogs without a physical and athletic presence on the right wing.
“First and foremost,” Mayes said of losing Sumpter, “she is one of our bigger girls and one of our more athletic girls. We lost a cornerstone up top; a person who can get the ball at her feet and help control the game a little better for us.”
Even though CHS struggled against an L-E defense anchored by Stanley between the pipes, defenders Allison Fambro, Darcy Belcher and midfielder Jenalyn Miskin, the game was still relatively in doubt. That was, until Osborne gained control of a pass from Belcher and while virtually eyeballing Shelburne was able to get to the bouncing ball and sent a low liner into the back of the nets in the game’s 52nd minute to give the Lady Demons a two-goal cushion.
L-E seemed to wear Camden down in the second half and, with good reason, Spoto said.
“Our starters came out set the tone tonight but we were bringing in four, five or six kids off the bench and there was no drop off for us,” he said. “It was just a fantastic game. I think this was the best we’ve played in four years.”
It would be a non-starter who closed the scoring when L-E junior forward Saige McLeod gathered in a Sydney Stanley shot which was turned aside by Shelburne only for McLeod to get the loose ball and push the rebound home for a 3-0 lead in the 62nd minute.
“We have a couple kids who really like to drive to the goal. We had three very different types of goals tonight which is fantastic,” Spoto said while saying he liked the aggressiveness which he saw from his girls, especially on the offensive end.
“What we talked about was that we need to step to the ball much harder and stop waiting for things to happen. We want to go to the ball and try and force the other team into bad touches, bad passes and mistakes and then, we capitalize on that. We have a couple kids with speed on our team and we really capitalized on that tonight.”
The loss evened Camden’s record at 1-1 on the season. The Lady Bulldogs opened with a 7-1 win over Buford on Monday in a contest which saw freshman forward Chloe Grein score five goals in her varsity debut while forward Serena Hayes added two more.
Mayes said his young squad is still a work in progress but is leaps and bounds ahead of a year ago in which the injury bug hit hard, especially early in the season. On Wednesday, Camden was back at full strength after having four players miss the Buford game due to the stomach virus.
“It was a tough night,” he said following the setback. “We are really just trying to get used to playing together. We have a lot of new players in new position and we’re trying to get used to playing together and to get some chemistry going.”