Rowan County Soccer Tournament: Salisbury 2, West Rowan 1
By David Shaw
GRANITE QUARRY — Anyone who wants to play follow-the-leader in girls soccer this spring will have to line up behind Salisbury.
The Hornets are the early frontrunners after reclaiming the Rowan County Tournament championship with Friday’s 2-1 victory over defending champ West Rowan.
“This game was more than just a championship,” SHS midfielder Madison Kennedy said at East Rowan High School, where teammate Karen Presnell scored a pair of second-half goals to lift Salisbury (3-0). “It was personal.”
It was also a chance to redeem itself from last year’s 3-1 championship-game loss to West (1-1). Salisbury coach Matt Parrish put a poignant spin on the outcome.
“Winning is good,” he said. “But learning from a loss is even better. I have girls that are capable. But mentally, they have to believe they can beat a team that everybody thinks is better than us.”
The third-seeded Hornets found themselves in trouble just 2:15 into the match when West senior Allison Parker scored on a rebound in front of Salisbury keeper Sierra Davis.
“We were fired up,” said Falcons’ coach Nick Brown. “And Parker got us going. She was our emotional leader out there. She brought it, really played a phenomenal game. She was winning everything in the first half. ”
West nearly extended its lead to 2-0 with about 10 minutes remaining in the first half. An offsides call nullified a goal by Jessica Gibbons — and sounded an alarm on the Salisbury sideline.
“The first half was very chaotic,” Kennedy said. “We were playing balls right down the middle, right to their team. Everything we did was not what we practiced at all.”
That changed in the second half when Parrish switched Presnell — a Catawba signee — from the defensive end to forward. The response was immediate as Salisbury peppered West keeper Allison Bailey with a number of high-percentage shots.
It paid off with 23:35 remaining when the Hornets knotted the score. Presnell, parked on the doorstep, unknowingly deflected a 30-yard drive by Kennedy into the net.
“I’m not sure I even touched it,” she said.
Assistant coach Meagan Robinson confirmed the shot caromed off the side of Presnell’s head.
“I saw Karen, I saw their player and I saw their keeper,” Kennedy said. “And somehow the ball got past all of them.”
Less than two minutes later, Presnell struck again. This time she gathered a pass on the left side, motored past a defender and whipped a 15-yard shot into lower right corner.
“I was just trying to be faster than the girl racing me,” she said.
Brown reported the Falcons had two strategies to defend Presnell.
“We had a game plan if Karen was in the back and a game plan for when she came up top,” he said. “But she’s a special player and she made special plays.”
West senior Brittan Gibbons almost tied the score in the waning moments when she broke in alone on Davis — a keeper-for-hire keeping the position warm until Olivia Rankin returns from basketball — only to be foiled by the inexperienced goalie.
“I got around the outside defender,” Gibbons said. “But my last touch was too far.”
A great play thwarted by a better counter-play. Davis played the angle perfectly and stuffed the shot, then watched it sail over the end line.
“I would be remiss if I did not say something about Sierra Davis’ play in the second half,” Parrish said. “Stopping a breakaway to save a goal late in the game, that was something. She’s a forward by nature playing in the goal because we don’t have anyone better right now.”
After the final whistle Gibbons searched for a positive spin.
“This is almost a good loss for us,” she said. “It shows we’re not the best team.”
NOTES: West played without all-state midfielder Allison Baucom — who was in Texas with a club team — and junior stopper Rachel Brown, sidelined with an illness. … East Rowan beat Carson, 3-1, in the consolation game. Abby Kepley netted two goals and Armanda Lee had one for the Mustangs (1-1). Freshman Katie Barringer scored for Carson (1-2).
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