The Lady Celts came out strong on Friday, attacking out the gates in the first half. But a dip in energy and a late South Salem goal ended the day with a 1-1 tie.
McNary (3-6-2, 0-2-1) started the day with a flurry, totaling seven shots on goal in the first half, along with a few that sailed wide or above the South Salem (1-4-4, 0-1-2) net. It was arguably the most aggressive they’ve looked all season. In the first 10 minutes of action, the Lady Celts had multiple good runs and two corner kicks.
“Good pressure from front to back, a lot of good pressure,” head coach Josh Rios Noonkester said.
The McNary pressure finally broke through and lit up the scoreboard on the seventh and final shot of the first half. Maya Alston’s strike from about 15 yards out near the right sideline sailed just beyond the South Salem keeper’s reach up top towards the far post.
“Maya has a really good shot, so we’ve just stressed a lot to get as many off as she can, clean looks when she has the time and space,” Noonkester said.
The goal was Alston’s 10th of the season, accounting for more than half of McNary’s 18 goals this season.
McNary outshot South Salem 7-3 in the first half, but things shifted in the second half. The Lady Celts’ energy and aggression seemed to be toned down, and not by design, according to Noonkester.
“We still felt organized, but they had a little more of the play in the midfield, so we were just trying to dig deep and get a result,” Noonkester said.
South Salem outshot McNary 3-2 in the second half, and that one shot difference may have been the deciding factor on Friday.
With less than seven minutes to play, South Salem had a free kick near midfield. The kick carried over the McNary line of defense and goalkeeper Madeline McLain made the initial stop, but was unable to corral the loose ball.
Noonkester said that with South Salem’s backline, he expected the deep free kick, but was hoping for a better clearance and follow up.
“It was pretty deflating, it was tough, but I like how our girls responded and tightened up after that and still competed through the final whistle,” Noonkester said.
And the Lady Celts and Noonkester still have some competing to do this season.
“Three games left, the mentality moving forward is to try to win out,” Noonkester said. “Really, that’s all we’ve been stressing for last weekend, this week. Moving forward, try to get into that top 32.”
The Lady Celts’ next time out on the pitch is Tuesday when they host undefeated Central Valley Conference leading No. 8 Sprague. The Olympians (7-0-3, 3-0) won the first meeting between the two this season 3-0 at Sprague on Sept. 21. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at McNary.