Chelsea girls hold off Thompson 2-1

Published 11:26 am Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Chelsea's Lexie Duca attempts to get past Thompson's Peyton Poe during the Lady Hornets' 2-1 win on March 15. (Reporter Photo / Baker Ellis)

Chelsea’s Lexie Duca attempts to get past Thompson’s Peyton Poe during the Lady Hornets’ 2-1 win on March 15. (Reporter Photo / Baker Ellis)

By BAKER ELLIS / Sports Editor

CHELSEA – Chelsea, the No. 3 6A girls soccer team in the state, welcomed in Thompson, the No. 8 7A team in the state, on March 15 for a non-regional game. Chelsea brought a 7-4-0 record into the match while Thompson came into the game at 6-3-3. More was at stake in this game than usual for the Hornets, who came into the game not having beaten Thompson in any year since 2004. After a scoreless first half, Chelsea scored two goals in a 10-minute span in the second half to take a 2-0 lead, and held on for a 2-1 win over the Lady Warriors.

“I’ve been at Chelsea since 2004, as an assistant and now head coach, and this is the first time I can recall that Chelsea has beaten Thompson,” Chelsea head girls coach Jonathan Hammett said after the game. “This is a big win for the program going forward.”

As most of the games have gone over the last decade between these two, Thompson dominated possession in the first 20 minutes of the first half. Melanie Brannon made Elizabeth Batton-PateChelsea’s keeper in the first half, dive for a save at the 26th minute, which was the best look of the half for either team. After Brannon’s shot was denied, Chelsea picked up the tempo in the last 15 minutes of the half, and had a decent look of its own when Lexie Duca had a free kick opportunity at the 30th minute, but pushed it high, and the teams went into the half all square at 0-0.

“We came out flat and never really got it going,” Hammett said of his team’s first half performance. “We were standing around waiting for something to happen. There wasn’t much movement off the ball, checking in and out of space, and creating short passing options. We got impatient and tried to do things that we don’t work on at practice. (But) We addressed that issue at halftime and the players began to execute better, showed more patience and started passing with short, controlled passes.  It opened things up and we were able to finish some opportunities.”

Address those issues Chelsea did, as six minutes after halftime, Sophie Wilson took a corner kick offering and pushed it past Angelica Justice, one of Thompson’s best midfielders who was filling in for Thompson at keeper in place of both Molley Morris, who was sick, and Chloe Sims, who was hurt. Wilson’s shot put Chelsea up 1-0, and four minutes later Wilson drew a foul on Justice in the Thompson box, setting up a penalty kick opportunity. Madeline Guillen took the shot for Chelsea, but Justice came up big for the Lady Warriors, blocking Guillen’s shot to keep the score at 1-0, which gave Thompson some momentum.

“I thought she did really well, especially without any real preparation,” Thompson head coach Nathan Button said of his utility keeper. “The PK save was awesome. We needed her to be in two places at once.”

After the blocked PK, the Lady Warriors worked the ball into the Chelsea defensive third and had three corner kick opportunities in the span of two minutes. Allison Singletary placed a ball off the top left crossbar at one point during the flurry of activity, and when Kh’Lari South, Chelsea’s keeper in the second half, came off her line to challenge a shot, Maddison Martin covered the goal and headed away a chip shot opportunity that would have tied the game.

Chelsea then turned the frantic defensive series into a counterattack opportunity, and Wilson scored her second goal of the game from outside the 18-yard box with a missile into the left side netting to put Chelsea up 2-0 in the 56th minute.

Thompson got a goal back when South mishandled a ball and Meghan Cottingham scored easily on an open net in the 62nd minute. The goal gave Thompson a shot in the arm of confidence, and the Lady Warriors pushed the pace in the last 15 minutes of the game, but Chelsea kept Thompson from tying the game, clearing a number of close calls, to salvage the 2-1 win.

“Coach Button does a fantastic job with his team and is highly respected as coach throughout the state,” Hammett said. “They are always disciplined, technical, and fundamentally sound. They keep coming at you and never relent. They got back in the game at 2-1 and turned up the pressure. The final minutes were tense and highly competitive.”

The win moved Chelsea to 8-4-0 and dropped Thompson to 6-4-3.