Despite some inspired defensive play and good possession of the ball, the Lady Raiders were forced to play from behind most of the match and were only able to draw level late to walk away with a 1-1 tie.
“We are still a couple plays away from being a pretty good team,” expressed Byrd post-match.
“Defensively we put up a really great effort. My heart goes out to our defensive efforts. But, the offense will come. We just have to be patient and work at it.”
Sullivan’s offense tested the waters early, putting a breakaway shot on goal that forced a diving Jenna Scoggins save.
The onslaught continued for much of the first 10 minutes as Cleveland fought to get their bearings on the field.
Samantha DeBien was the first Lady Raider to put a quality shot on goal. In the 12th minute she forced a diving save with a well struck shot on goal.
Cleveland began to build steam as first half progressed, but the wind was stolen from their sails in the 27th minute when a Sullivan booted shot that stared at the top of the penalty area and ended up in the Raider net.
Going down 1-nil wasn’t the end of the world for a team that is quickly becoming used to battling back and being resilient.
“Our attacking is still something we are just not getting ahold of. I really do feel that aspect of our game will come,” Byrd said.
The Lady Raiders came just short in the closing minutes of the first half, but a costly offsides call put an early end to a promising offensive push.
Going into the half down a goal, Cleveland found themselves needing to fight tooth and nail to stay afloat in their own tournament.
Offensively, the host team got things rolling when the second half got under way.
Four minutes into the half Hope Haas tested her leg from distance, but the ball traveled well wide of the woodwork.
During the 52nd minute of play, DeBien crossed a ball into the Lady Rebel’s penalty area that found Sohara Perez Gomez’s feet. But, the attempted was well defended and cleared before a strike could be launched.
The dynamic of play changed in the 66th minute when Calli Baker lobbed a strike from range after a solid offensive push by Kendall Hamilton put the ball in an advantageous area. The goal brought the teams even at 1-1, an area Cleveland is finding itself in often.
“We have to be patient and continue to learn. Honestly, I not unhappy. We had some big expectations coming into the season. Sometimes it just takes a little longer for the team to reach those points,” explained Byrd.
But, despite a triad of offensive chances in the closing minutes Cleveland remained one good touch away from catching lightning twice and had to settle for their second tie of the tournament.
Luckily for crew they have a few days to rest up and get healthy before a very important District 5-AAA match against Ooltewah on Thursday.
“Having a couple days off is going to be huge. The game against Ooltewah is big, and then the game against McMinn is big, and then the game against Soddy is big,” Byrd said with a smile.
As of press time, 5-AAA rival and defending district champion Soddy-Daisy is competeing for the title of the 2012 Cleveland Classic.
A win or a draw Saturday night against Oakland would give the Lady Trojans the victory. A loss would crown Notre Dame the winning team.