NTL GIRLS SOCCER: ATHENS PREVAILS OVER WELLSBORO, 2-1, IN 'BATTLE OF UNBEATENS' (24 PHOTOS)
(2020-10-08)By TIM BIRNEYValley Sports Report
ATHENS "” With first place on the line, Thursday's Athens-Wellsboro's girls soccer "battle of unbeatens" at Alumni Stadium had a postseason feel to it.
The Lady Wildcats scored goals 84 seconds apart early in the second half, and withstood a late Wellsboro goal to take sole possession of first place with a 2-1 win.
Athens has won back-to-back District 4 titles, and eight consecutive NTL championships. Athens coach Rich Pitts says this team has every intention to extend both those streaks.
"It's a huge win for us," he said.
"(Wellsboro) walked into the building ... they were focused, and they were ready to beat us," noted Pitts. "They thought they were going to beat us, and I challenged my girls - "˜not in our house, not this time, not anytime' and the girls responded.
"We're going to be the champs until somebody knocks us off. That's not cocky, it's just the attitude we always come with," added Pitts. "Somebody might (knock us off) and that's OK, but they're going to have to beat us. We're never going to beat ourselves."
Athens controlled the ball throughout the contest, outshooting Wellsboro, 16-2, and also had a 7-2 edge in corner kicks.
"We changed to a 4-2-3-1," said Pitts. "I ran it by the older girls, and they wanted to try it because we were getting a lot of pressure on with just three backs. Sitting two in front shuts everyone down, it's just about having pace with your midfielders so you can get everyone forward.
"In the second half, we were better, especially the midfielders, getting pace, getting forward, and getting chances," added Pitts. "It was a good game for us."
The Lady Wildcats put pressure on the Wellsboro net from the outset. However, between errant Athens shots, and a couple nice saves by Green Hornet keeper Lilly Abadi, the game was scoreless at the intermission.
Early in the second half, Roe took a feed well outside the 18, dribbled through three or four Wellsboro defenders, and beat Abadi with a shot inside the net at the far post to give the Lady Wildcats a 1-0 lead.
"That was good stuff," said Pitts. "(Emma) has a short memory. She missed some goals she probably should have had, but she forgot about it and moved on.
"She's the motor of this team, and every game that clicks off is one less game I'm going to have her," he added. "It's been such a treat to coach her, she's just a great kid overall. She plays 80 minutes and she still has tons of energy."
With 33:48 remaining in the contest, Roe, along the baseline, sent a pass through the box to the far post, where senior Hannah Blackman one-touched into the back of the next from 10 yards out to make it 2-0.
Pitts credits another switch - moving Roe up front, and sophomore Ally Thoman to the midfield - for the pressure on the Wellsboro goal.
"On the way here tonight, I decided to put (Emma) up top, and see what we can do," said Pitts.
"Emma is a midfielder, but she can score goals. Usually she's coming from deeper in the field, so getting that in the pocket is not what she normally does. They bracketed her with two girls, there were basically six girls marking her.
"Ally (Thoman) is only a sophomore ... those balls she was playing through to Emma in the first half were nice. We work on that a lot, and Ally got her head up, and found Emma a ton," noted Pitts. "It was brilliant stuff.
"I thought Thoman played a great game tonight, putting her in the spotlight role that Emma usually runs," he added. "And (Hannah) Blackman is always there for us, she's a stud back there."
Athens maintained pressure on the Wellsboro goal, but Abadi and the Green Hornet defense kept the score at 2-0.
With 6 1/2 minutes remaining, Kerrah Clymer, off a feed from Cara Tennis, put Wellsboro on the board.
With 4 minutes remaining, the Lady Wildcats got off three hard shots from inside 15 yards, but Abadi made two athletic saves, and another shot ricocheted off a defender.
Athens kept the ball in the Wellsboro for nearly all of the remaining four minutes.
Athens, now 7-0-1, travels to Wyalusing Monday, while Wellsboro, now 6-1-1, travels to NP-Mansfield Saturday.
IN PHOTO 1: Athens senior Emma Roe. ... PHOTOS BY DAVID ALLIGER - TRAVELING PORTRAITS.
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