A “perfect” penalty kick was the only difference in a thrilling soccer match between fourth-ranked and unbeaten Soddy-Daisy and Cleveland Thursday at the Greater Cleveland Soccer Complex on Mouse Creek Road.
The kick by Soddy-Daisy’s Dakota Johnson found the upper left corner of the net with 11:47 remaining in the first period. It sailed just over the fingers of Cleveland goalkeeper Alison Simpson.
“It was a perfect kick,” said Cleveland coach Andy Byrd. “I don’t think any goalkeeper in the state could have stopped that shot.”
Other than the winning goal, and a 1-0 victory pushing the Lady Trojans to a perfect 13-0 record this season, Simpson played a sensational match. She stopped eight shots by Soddy-Daisy and kept the Lady Raiders in the match until the end.
“She’s given us four phenomenal years,” Byrd said of his talented senior. “She had never played soccer, until she came out as a freshman.”
The loss drops the Lady Raiders to 5-5-1 on the season, but Byrd is pleased with his team’s continued development. “We’re a young team and we continue to improve,” he said.
He emphasized that Cleveland has several freshmen who are still learning to be aggressive.
Byrd criticized his girls after the match for their inability to finish off drives into Soddy-Daisy territory. He added that the Lady Raiders did not show the “urgency” needed in the final minutes with the Lady Trojans on top, 1-0.
Both coaches anticipate more exciting action between the two teams this season.
“It was a close battle and they’re a good team,” said Soddy-Daisy coach Moise Drummond. “They are among the best five or six teams we’ve played this season.”
“We’ll see them again, and it’ll be a close battle,” Drummond emphasized. “That’s the way it’s been as this rivalry has developed.”
“We’ve got to learn to finish,” Byrd said of his offense, which misfired on six shots at the Soddy-Daisy goal. “We had our opportunities, but couldn’t take advantage of them.
“We need to develop a killer instinct. If we don’t we’re going to lose to the good teams,” the Cleveland coach added. “Soddy-Daisy gave us several chances late in the game, but we didn’t convert.”
Despite the loss, Byrd said his Lady Raiders learned a lot. “We now know what it takes to play with Soddy-Daisy,” he said. “The defenses were pretty much a standoff, so we know we can play with them. It will be exciting in the district tournament.”
The Cleveland coach praised the play of senior Katelyn McChesney, saying she sparked the Lady Raiders at midfield. He added that junior Leanne Indovino also had a good performance.
The Lady Raiders have this weekend off, but return to action on Tuesday when Lenoir City comes to visit at the soccer complex.
Byrd said he is looking forward to the district tournament Oct. 17-21. He’s anticipating that his team will get another shot at the undefeated Lady Trojans. “We can play with them,” he repeated.
It took a “perfect” kick to beat the Lady Raiders Thursday.