It wasn’t the prettiest match, nor the most skillful. But, down a daunting 6-nil with five minutes left on the clock, the Lady Raiders went down fighting and captured the match’s final two goals to avoid the clean sheet.
“Always happy to avoid the shutout,” said Cleveland head coach Andy Byrd with a smile after his squad’s 6-2 season-closing loss.
“We came out and fought and fought. We score a couple goals with a couple minutes left. As I’m putting my regulars subs in I told them that they might be down 6-nil, but you want this finish to be as good as possible. Show some character by getting back out there and working hard.”
When the two teams met in the regular season they battled out a scoreless 80 minutes of regulation only to have Soddy nab the victory in the final minute of the first overtime period.
That previous meeting went out the window with the return of Lady Trojan standout and Lee University signee Summer Lanter. Lanter had missed a large portion of the season with injury problems, but no one watching would have been able to tell that Tuesday night.
Lanter ended the night with four rocket shots on goal, three of which found the back of the net for the hat-trick. She also added a pair of assists, directly contributing to five of Soddy’s six goals.
Megan Weller notched a pair of scores and Natalie Smith also found the back of the net to round out Lady Trojan scoring.
With their backs against a wall, the Cleveland squad did what they’ve done best all season. They fought back.
In the 74th minute of the match, Lady Raider sophomore forward Sohara Perez reared back and let fly at the top of the 18-yard box. The ball coursed forward and came to rest in the back of Soddy’s net to give Cleveland a much needed jolt of electricity and avoid the shutout.
The trend caught on. Two minutes later fellow Lady Raider strikers — junior Hope Haas and freshman Samantha DeBien — joined in the fun.
Haas sent a well-placed cross to DeBien’s feet. Cleveland’s freshman forward in turn sent a rocket goalward that found the back of net, giving Cleveland its second goal and letting the Lady Raiders end their season on a higher note.
“Soddy is a really good team. Summer brings a totally new dynamic to the side. Last time we played them she wasn’t available and this time she was, and it showed. It came together for them tonight, but give us nine months and we’ll see them again,” Byrd stated.
“We weren’t the most talented team or the fastest, but these girls are magicians because they made magic happen out there on the field. We’re a young team. We have to be off for 30 days, but I told the girls that on Day 31 we are going to be back in that weight room preparing for next season.”
DeBien ends the season as Cleveland’s leading goal scorer with 11 scores through 16 matches. Perez found the back of the net three times this season. Junior Lorne Conn had four goals. Classmates Callie Baker and Haas had three apiece. Kendall Hamilton had a pair of scores and senior defender Alex Hutt also notched a goal.
Four girls (DeBien, Perez, Haas and Hamilton) all had two assists on the season. Seniors Betsie Hobbs and Hutt also had a dish apiece.
Sophomore Jenna Scoggins finished the season with 153 saves out of 180 attempts for a save percentage of 85. She also added a goal to her resume.
While Cleveland now looks ahead to next season, Soddy-Daisy must prepare a defense of its district crown against Ooltewah Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Lady Trojans’ soccer complex.