06/12/2024
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LEJEUNE – East Bladen and Lejeune battled through 110 minutes of scoreless girls’ soccer action Tuesday night, before the Lady Eagles claimed the 3rd round NCHSAA Class 1A victory with a 4-1 advantage in the penalty kick shootout.

East Bladen advances to the 4th round of the playoffs and will play No. 2 seed Woods Charter in Pittsboro Thursday at 6 p.m.

Heidi Rebollar, Gabby Rebollar, Jackie Medina-Leal and Molly Evans fired in goals during the penalty kick shootout. Lady Eagle goalie Reese Hester blocked 2 of the 3 Lejeune penalty kick attempts.

NCHSAA 1A Girls Soccer Playoffs: East Bladen Beats Lejeune on Penalty Kicks

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“The game was wide open. Back and forth,” noted Raynor. “They had some great chances on goal and we did as well. Our backs did a phenomenal job of keeping the game in front of them. Zoe (Smith), Leah (McGill), Molly, and Gabby were everything the team needed and more. Lejeune were fast and physical.”

Lejeune freshman Scarlett McLean was averaging over 3 goals per game, but the Eagles made defensive adjustments for her.

“We tasked Macy (Potter) of man marking #2 (McLean),” explained Raynor. “Macy made the game extremely difficult for her. McLean didn’t have space to create or to run at us. We also used Molly as the back on the side of Macy and McLean. Molly supported Macy and cleaned up any loose balls as well as picked up #2 if she got free.”

Raynor continued, “Super proud of Leah. Lejeune made an adjustment to put their talented attacker opposite 2 and on Leah. Leah made tackle after tackle on her. Leah locked down her side of the field.”

“We moved Zoe into more of a central midfield role,” stated Raynor. “It’s where she had been playing earlier in the year. She had been playing great there but earlier in the season we needed to generate more longer attacking options. We knew Lejeune wanted to counter attack and they were fast. Zoe stopped those counters and played a physical game. Her leadership helped keep our shape in the system.”

Raynor added, “Some balls did get behind our outside backs but Gabby and Reese made sure to clean them up. Those girls were great! Coming off an injury in the last game and playing as hard as she did and do what she did… not sure I have ever witnessed something like that on sidelines. Gabby and Reese, their toughness to push themselves and their teammates is what carried us through.”

McLean and #16 (Madeline Rodriguez del Toro) generated Lejeune’s best scoring chance. “Reese was forced to make numerous diving saves on shots and loose through balls,” noted Raynor. “The toughest being a 1v1 with McLean in the first half where she stretched out and dove to block the shot. McLean got free and served a ball to Rodriguez and kept her run. Reese made a play on the shot from Rodriguez, and the ball got loose. McLean was full speed 1v1 with Reese and Reese stayed locked on the ball and made the save. That play set the tone for the remainder of the game.”

Raynor continued, “Our holding midfielders were also phenomenal. Eli (Padilla) continues to get better each time out. Eli didn’t seem to be bothered by the moment. Her calmness on the ball helped us retain it in midfield. She was instrumental in helping us move the ball down the field on our throw-ins.”

“Anna (Miranda) had the best game of her high school career last night,” said Raynor. “Defensively she was a huge factor in midfield. She made some great tackles and engaged the Lejeune girls in her area. Anna was also a factor on the attacking side of the ball. She got free several times on the backside and had several shots on goal. With the marking of Heidi, Jackie, and NeNe (Ward), Lejeune was leaving the space in front of Anna open. Anna took advantage of that space and put some great attempts on goal.”

Raynor continued, “NeNe, Jackie, and Heidi gave us everything they had! They were marked and there wasn’t much space for them to find. NeNe and Jackie were a problem for their backs. Their speed going to goal was an issue. We found an area to expose 20 minutes in and made an adjustment. After that we seemed to dominate the attack. We generated attacks deep into their box as well as some shots.”

“We thought Heidi had scored from 25 yards out but it was deemed a no goal,” said Raynor. “Heidi cut back and beat her defender. She took the shot and it hit off the crossbar then straight down. From my angle it looked perfect. That gave us some energy and we continued mounting our attacks. Both teams had their chances. We were more organized on set pieces and had two corners that we could’ve converted.”

“Every shot was in the corner and on the ground,” observed Raynor about the penalty kicks. “We work on those from time to time during the season. We haven’t done it nearly as much as we have in the past. However, we finished on those at practice the day before. We knew who was going to kick and that had to have helped their confidence.”

Raynor added, “Reese was unbelievable. We had discussed rotating keepers during the kicks with her and Heidi. Reese wanted the first kick. After she made that first stop she was mentally locked in. You could see it. After she tipped the 2nd shot you could tell she was in the zone. I asked her if she wanted to rotate and she said she wanted the kicks… she made the 3rd block and the rest is history.”

“Play of the game for me though comes from KK (Kaelyn Eason),” shared Raynor. “It was obvious after the 110 minutes of soccer that the girls were exhausted. There were tears flowing, heads hanging, some doubt in the air… we got our order of kicks set, discussed rotating keepers and why we were, and stated the obvious “keep it low and put it in the corners.” I asked them if they needed anything else from me and KK chimed in… ‘Coach we need to pray.’ In that moment that calmed us down. We put things in His hands and that settled of us all down. This is an amazing group and can’t say enough about them.”

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