Julie Dieker (6) attempts to get a pass by a West Albany defender (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).
The McNary girls soccer team outscored West Albany 3-1 in the final 65 minutes of the game. But it was the first 15 minutes that the Celtics couldn’t recover from.
West Albany exploded for three goals early in the first half to take a 3-0 lead, and McNary couldn’t quite complete the comeback as they fell to the Bulldogs 4-3 on Thursday, Sept. 19.
The Bulldogs ran a unique attack that featured extra players on the outside, which gave the Celtics visible trouble early on.
“It took a while to make an adjustment. Once the coaching staff found it, there were three goals in the back of the net,” McNary head coach A.J. Nash said. “We left a pocket in between the defense and the center-midfield, and they were overloading the outsides and we just didn’t have an outlet.”
Coming back from a 3-0 deficit early in the first half is a daunting task, but the Celtics effort never wavered.
On a McNary corner kick in the 22nd minute, Ariana Santana placed a great ball into the middle of the field. After the ball ricocheted of a McNary player and hit the crossbar, Maya Luscomb was able to corral the rebound and put a left-footed shot into the back of the net to put the Celtics on the board.
However, just minutes later, West Albany midfielder Monica Kloess responded with her second score of the contest to put the Bulldogs up 4-1.
But McNary came back with a goal of their own in the 29th minute. Santana dribbled the ball by a West Albany defender to give herself space up the right sideline. She then placed a perfect ball into the middle that went over the West Albany goalkeeper’s head, which was knocked in with a header from Celtics midfielder Julie Dieker.
“Ariana made a beautiful play on the cross. Me and her have always had a connection and it’s fun to get goals off each other,” Dieker said.
In the 47th minute, McNary chipped away at the lead once again.
Forward Audrey Williams was accosted by a West Albany defender after maneuvering her way into the box and was awarded a penalty kick.
On the PK, Williams was just able to sneak a shot into the lower left-corner of the goal to cut the Bulldogs lead to one.
But even though they tightened things up on the defensive side, the McNary attack failed to threaten for the remainder of the game as West Albany dropped an additional player into their back line to help preserve the win.
Even in defeat, Nash commended his team for their effort and attitude.
“Their attitude and character was all on display tonight. Our girls never got down. They stayed up for the whole game and I commend them for that,” Nash said. “It’s a testament to the type of kids they are. They trust each other and have faith in each other. Once we buttoned up, they started getting their confidence underneath them.”
Dieker added: “We’re definitely frustrated, but we played hard and I feel like we learned how to make adjustments to what West Albany was doing.”
McNary begins Mountain Valley Conference play on Tuesday, Oct. 1 when they host West Salem at 7 p.m.