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ELIZABETHTOWN – Junior Molly Evans fired in the only goal of the game in the 28th minute to lift East Bladen to a 1-0 Southeastern Athletic Conference girls’ soccer victory over West Bladen Friday night.

“Molly made an incredible run into space, beat a defender, and scored a great goal from just outside the right side of the 18 yard box.” said East Bladen Coach Jay Raynor. “It was well hit and found the back corner of the goal. That goal came at a crucial time. I thought West got better as the game went on.”

The Lady Eagles held a 15-4 advantage in shots and outshot West 9-2 in the 1st half.

“Our two seniors played extremely well for us tonight. Cydney (Campbell) helped with our pushes forward and sending in passes to our forwards,” noted Raynor. “Acee (Campbell) was great tonight. We had a hard time controlling the ball and were forced into a lot of transitions. Due to those transitions, Acee was forced out of position numerous times but was able to recover and make several big plays.”

Raynor continued, “Acee blocked several shots late in the game on the edge of our box. Acee has a great understanding of the game and sniffs things out before they materialize. Those blocks and clears were huge.

“West poured on the pressure and never quit,” stated Raynor. “Tonight they wanted it more than we did. Everyone of their players left it on the field and battled. Coach (Kristen) Parker did a phenomenal job having her girls prepared. West’s pressure on every ball as well as their defending tonight limited our chances. It also forced us to play away from our strengths and away from our system.”

The Lady Knights were credited with 115 steals in the game led by senior Eva Ayala-Martinez who racked up 18 steals. Sophomore Ashley Sanchez-Resendiz collected 15 steals, and sophomore Jazmy Funez Aranda followed with 13 steals. Sophomore Anna Campbell added 12 steals.

Freshman Makenna Thurman finished with 10 steals, sophomore Yuridia Santana-Dominguez contributed 9 steals, and senior Lainey Autry totaled 8 steals. Senior Kaden Thurman and junior Brookee Singletary posted 7 steals each. Junior Briana Carranza Toledo had 10 saves in goal for West.

“We played nothing like we did earlier in the week,” said Raynor. “We didn’t move the ball nor get the opportunities on goal as we previously did. For me that has a lot to do with West wanting it more, out working us, and being better prepared.”

Raynor continued, “It was not a pretty game if we talk about our play. I don’t like knowing we got out worked. However, I am proud of my girls for the defensive effort and getting the result. Another win and another shutout. That says a lot about our girls defending.

“Logan Autry is dangerous up top for West,” noted Raynor. “She never stops and seems to always be running around and making plays. She gave us fits and had us on our heels several times.

“However Anna (Miranda), Zoe (Smith), Molly, and Gabby (Rebollar) did a great job bending and not breaking,” said Raynor. “We were tested and shut those attacks down. Reese (Hester) didn’t have to make any difficult saves tonight and that’s a result of her backs in front of her and our holding midfielders. Molly had to come out of the game midway through the second half. Gabby stepped right in and made some plays for us. Gabby does whatever we the team needs her to do.”

Raynor added, “Eliana (Padilla) was able to create some attacks for us coming out of the midfield. Her combination play with Jackie (Medina Leal) and Heidi (Rebollar) opened a lot up for us attacking wise. Those girls were able to generate some nice runs that lead to good shots. We forced their keeper to make some tough saves. I wish we could’ve gotten a few more quality shots off, but the ones we took were not bad looks.

“Simone Blanks played some big minutes for us tonight,” noted Raynor. “Simone has really shown a lot of growth over the last few weeks. Her effort and hustle is what we needed up top tonight.

“Having to pull Molly and move players around played a role in our dip in performance,” said Raynor. “That’s a great reason but we have to be more resilient than that. That’s adversity and we have to be able to handle that better than what we did today.”

Raynor concluded, “We are young and these types of performances can happen. Hate it came after we played so well on Tuesday. It’s a rivalry and you never know how those games will go. West gave us all we wanted. We bent but didn’t break. We earned another win as well as a shutout and we sent our Seniors out with two more wins over West.”

East Bladen improves to 4-2 in the SAC-7 and 7-3-1 overall and will visit Heide Trask Thursday. The Lady Knights, now 0-4 in league play and 3-9 overall, will be at Lumberton Monday.

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