County Soccer Championship: West Rowan 3, Salisbury 0

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 1, 2012

By David Shaw
MOUNT ULLA — No Allison Parker. No Brittany Gibbons. And really, no problem for the West Rowan girls soccer team.
Despite losing two superlative players from last year’s team to graduation, the Falcons have hit the ground running this week. They capped it Thursday night with a convincing 3-0 win over visiting Salisbury in the Rowan County Tournament championship game.
“I still think we’re trying to find our identity without those two girls,” winning coach Nick Brown said after West (2-0) posted its second shutout and captured its second title in the past three years. “But so far the girls are coming along. They’re starting to realize we’ve still got a good group.”
This group was well-equipped to dethrone the defending champion Hornets (1-1). Junior Toni Lucente scored a pair of goals and senior Allison Baucom opened the scoring just 1:15 into the match.
“It was a big deal for us,” said Lucente, who also netted two goals in Tuesday’s first-round victory over Carson. “It’s a little bit of a rivalry and they upset us last year.”
Baucom said West played with a bit of a chip on its shoulder. “We wanted to come back and make a point,” she noted.
West’s do-it-all forward made one loud and clear in the second minute, when she converted a corner kick by Lucente for a quick 1-0 lead.
“Baucom attacked the ball,” Brown said. “That’s something we always emphasize on set plays — attack the ball. It found her foot and she put it in the back of the net. Any time you can score that early against a good team is a plus.”
Salisbury coach Matt Parrish didn’t applaud his defense for the lapse, but was more impressed with its subsequent play.
“To me, what was more important than the first goal was the way we reacted to the first goal,” he said. “We could’ve had the deer-in-the-headlights look. We could have had the oh-gosh-what-are-we-gonna-do-now look, but we didn’t. We went the next 35 minutes toe-to-toe with them.”
Salisbury managed only two shots — and the first didn’t come until late in the first half. By then Lucente had crashed a shot off the right post that kept the Hornets on their heels. West extended its lead to 2-0 with 4:15 remaining in the half when Lucente floated a 35-yard free kick over the outstretched fingers of Salisbury keeper Kristal Rodriquez.
“That built our confidence,” she said. “Getting the second goal is always important.”
From the sideline Brown offered Lucente a pre-kick strategy. “She was standing here beside me and I told her, ‘Just put it on frame,’” he said, then added more you-are-there insight: “I told her, ‘Put it high, but whatever you do, make sure you put it on frame.’ And she took a perfect shot. She did exactly what I asked her to do.”
It was a busy night for Rodriquez — a freshman keeping the seat warm for injured regular keeper Madeline Hoskins — and the rest of Salisbury’s Department of Youth defense. Rodriquez faced 20 shots and saved 14. She seemed to reach and secure every ball that she could locate.
“Yeah, but they were winning all the 50-50 balls,” said SHS defender Susannah Dixon. “Coach says that’s what wins the game.”
West cemented the outcome with 26 minutes to play when Lucente settled a feed, turned to her right and rifled a curling, 30-yard shot past Rodriquez. “I just cut it and shot over her hands,” she said.
Both coaches had reason to smile after the match. Parrish got 80 minutes of grit-not-glamour from a team with more question marks than pound signs. And Brown left with the championship trophy that eluded the Falcons a year ago. “We’re going to find ourselves,” he said. “But so far I’m very proud of them.”

NOTES: The North Rowan-Carson consolation match was cancelled.