Navarre High School resumed the 2012-2013 girls soccer season in a big way this week, with matches for varsity or junior varsity squads – or both – scheduled every school day.
The Lady Raiders played their first match after the holiday break on Thursday, Jan. 3, and tied Fort Walton Beach 1-1 on the Lady Vikings’ home pitch.
(PHOTO: Mariah McKinny races a Fort Walton Beach player to the ball.)
The outcome doesn’t reflect Navarre’s dominant play. In the first half alone, the Raiders had no less than a dozen corner kicks and continually pressured the Viking defense. Several Raiders’ shots bounced off the goalpost or rolled harmlessly past the entire goal mouth without a player to put the ball into the empty goal.
Although the Raiders dominated the game, they found themselves down by a goal at the 30-minute mark. The Raiders made their only mistake of the night when a Viking player was not picked up in the middle of the field about 30 yards in front of the goal. As the Raider defense collapsed on her, it left Viking Rachel Simmons open as she cut toward the right post. Simmons took the pass and shot quickly to the right side of the goal. Raider goalkeeper Julianna DeSalle did not have a play on the ball and the Vikings took a 1-0 lead.
The Raiders managed to tie the game 15 minutes into the second half, thanks to brilliant teamwork. Morgan Littlewood took a long free-kick that bounced high about 20 yards in front of the goal. Hannah Gullickson out-jumped defenders and headed the ball to the left side of the field. Hunter Moorer beat the Vikings to the ball and crossed a hard pass in front of the goal mouth to Jenny Fitzpatrick near the right goal post. Fitzpatrick buried a shot into the right side for the tying goal.
Moorer was an offensive force as she consistently beat the Viking defenders down the left side of the field. Her passes across the goal were perfectly executed.
“We were playing on artificial turf and it really affected the speed of the ball on the ground,” Moorer said. “We were a little late getting to passes because the ball arrived much sooner than on turf.”
The backside attackers were late getting to the passes until Fitzpatrick connected. Raider forwards Moorer, Fitzpatrick, Gullickson and Shelby Clark all helped to pressure the Viking defense, but too many times, they were attacking alone without support.
At midfield, Rylie Slaybaugh, Gabby Armstrong, Melia Gross and Jade Whitley played aggressively against the Vikings and controlled the middle of the field.
“We are really starting to gel in the midfield,” Slaybaugh said. “This was one of our better games.”
The defense of Littlewood, Bri Young, Haley Naker, Taylor Brown and Mariah McKinny also played well together. McKinny continues to distinguish herself with every game. Several times she made hard sliding tackles to stop a Viking attack. The freshman is playing like a well-seasoned veteran.
The Raiders’ record was 6-6-4 overall and 5-1-1 in district play after the tie at Fort Walton Beach.
Navarre is playing its final games of the regular season this week. The Raiders’ varsity was scheduled to host Choctawhatchee on Monday and Pensacola Catholic on Tuesday and to end its season with a match at West Florida on Friday, Jan. 11. Navarre will host the district tournament beginning Monday, Jan. 14, at Navarre High School and the Navarre Soccer Complex.
The jayvee was scheduled to play Fort Walton Beach at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 9, and at Choctawhatchee at 5 p.m. today, Thursday Jan. 10, and at West Florida at 5:30 p.m. tomorrow, Friday Jan. 11.