It was no rest for the weary Tuesday night as the Walker Valley Lady Mustangs took to the pitch for a second straight night against a second District 5-AAA foe.
Monday night, the Herd welcomed in the defending district champion Soddy-Daisy Lady Trojans to make up for an earlier rain cancellation. Walker Valley played out a gutsy game but fell 2-0.
Then, the squad was right back to work Tuesday night, welcoming in last year’s district runner-up, the Cleveland High School Lady Raiders.
Both teams battled for possession, and both came away with offensive chances, but in the end it was the Lady Raiders who walked away with the 3-nil victory.
“Walker Valley is always a tough place to come and play in. Tom (Bayliss)’s team always plays us really tough; hats off to them,” said Lady Raider head coach Andy Byrd.
“I think we looked better tonight. We still have some good players making average decisions, but it’s starting to get better. That will just come with experience, but we are seeing improvement.”
It was a tight match throughout the first half of play. Both teams held possession and moved the ball, launching into an attack-counter attack dance that held the game scoreless for the first 38 minutes.
During the final minutes of the period, Lady Raider freshman forward Samantha DeBien worked her way to the top of the penalty area and put a shot through traffic that came to rest in the back of the Mustang net, giving Cleveland the one-goal lead as the first half expired.
The Lady Raiders struck again coming out of the gate in the second half. DeBien took a free kick in the 47th minute that drifted into the box and found birthday girl Kendall Hamilton who put the ball in the goal, giving Cleveland the 2-nil lead.
Walker Valley answered with shots from Jaclyn Griffith in the 54th minute and Daija Kocenko in the 56th, but neither reached its intended destination.
Cleveland’s Sohara Perez bounced one off the crossbar two minutes later, foreshadowing things to come.
She got her second chance with three minutes left to play. Shooting from the corner of the penalty area, Perez bent the ball past the defense and into the opposite corner of the Mustang goal. With that final goal the clock expired on the match, ending play at 3-0 Cleveland.
“Our athletic ability is there. We are still just struggling with the mental aspect of the game. If I can play harder or make a better decision I don’t understand why I wouldn’t,” stated Bayliss postmatch.
“Some people might see playing back-to-back matches as wearing us down, but we need to see it as a challenge. I know we are capable of more than we are putting on the field. I do have some girls out there who are working and are showing they want it. I just need everyone to adopt that attitude.”
Thursday night will be another big text for both squads as Cleveland heads home to face district leading Soddy-Daisy, and Walker Valley travels to Bradley Central to take on their other county rivals, the Bearettes.