Opening the new season against Appling County, the Brunswick High boys had to hold on late for a 2-1 win.
Losing several senior leaders that helped push the program to new heights, the goals of this year’s team were to elevate. For head coach Enrique Power, he knows he will have an inexperienced group to start the season off.
At times it didn’t look like it as the team picked up two first-half goals thanks to freshman Wilmer Garcia scoring from a direct free kick from 25 yards out and junior Allan Antah slotting home a penalty kick just past the keeper’s gloves and into the bottom corner.
Holding the most dangerous lead in the sport of soccer, a 2-0 lead, Brunswick had to dig deep in the second half to prevail.
A few missed chances to seal the game early in the second half left life for Appling County to grab a goal and make it a dog fight till the end. Pushing the Pirates’ backline to create chances with widened gaps, Brunswick’s goalie Uvi Garcia made every save possible to try and keep hold of a clean sheet.
That was until he made a costly mistake. As Power and his assistant coaches kept yelling at Garcia to just clear the ball, one short pass allowed Appling County to pounce. Winning the ball back just outside of the box and dribbling into the box, a Brunswick defender made a challenge that resulted in a penalty for Appling.
“We were closer to a 3-0 lead than a 2-1 for most of the game,” Power said. “Our inexperienced goalie in the back makes a mess and it’s 2-1 and game on. Against any team and any region, it’s going to be that type of game after being up 2-0 and almost leading 3-0 and seeing it go 2-1. It’s always going to turn out like that.
Converting the penalty kick with power, Appling felt life with 17 minutes to go.
“The inexperience got to us,” Power said. “The inexperience — of the younger guy — really got to them. How to manage a game where you are partly dominating them but where we keep the ball, possess and score a third goal to take some of the weight off of your shoulders. How young we are, we will improve as every game goes by.”
Being young, the Pirates never allowed the goal to keep them down for long because they knew Appling County would try and level the game and possibly win it.
Continuing to press Appling’s backline and picking up free kicks in dangerous areas of the final third, Brunswick left chances out on the pitch in the end.
Free kicks either sailed over the frame of the goal or deliveries from set pieces went over one too many heads to grab the third goal. Missing passes was a key in the game as Power sometimes grew frustrated with his team’s decision-making.
“Most of it is that they just have to be able to read the game a bit better and connect on some more passes so we are not rushing,” Power said of how to assess the situation. “Most of it (Monday night) we just hurried everything. It was all high speed, high speed. It didn’t have to be that way and we could have controlled it a little bit better but at the end of the day, the leadership of the older guys and more experienced players kicks in. So far we haven’t found it yet and hopefully, we will find it in the next few games.”
Heated in battle at times, the Brunswick High Pirates were able to hold on in the end to pick up its first win of the season and bring confidence to the young side.
Appling County 1
Brunswick girls 0
Kicking off the new season under the direction of new head coach Kim Medders, the Brunswick High Lady Pirates had several new faces to fill across the pitch. Graduating seven seniors from last year’s group, Medders spent the school day just pumping up her team to be ready for the moment.
And in the beginning, they showed it, winning balls in the air and keeping Appling on the back foot with balls down the line to give the likes of Lourdes Royal and Kaylin Herrin chances to dribble into the final third.
Sitting defenders down with cut-backs or keeping them on their back hip with their pace, all things looked good for the team early on. That was until the final ball.
Every time the home Pirates created a possible chance, the road Pirates backline would clear the ball away.
“Yes everything was there,” Medders said about the possible chances. “Every time we would get into a scoring opportunity, their team would clear it which is what I would yell with the rec teams of ‘Clear the ball’. Instead of trying to find some strategy of trying to send it back to one of their players, they would clear the ball.”
Having to respect the game plan by the road Pirates for the first 40 minutes to leave the game 0-0, the road Pirates made adjustments to leave the home Pirates defending for bunches.
Six minutes into the second half, Appling had a measured through ball that split Brunswick’s center-back pairing and left goalie Georgia Lawless charging off her line. Keeping her place by the near post, Appling’s McKaylee Martinez slotted her shot just past Lawless at the near post to break the deadlock.
“What they were doing well was the Tiki-Taka of passing and getting wide,” Medders said. “I think once they started to get some scoring opportunities and coming down, we started to play more reactively. The way they kept us from scoring is they just booted it. The whole backline did that.”
Not giving up as both sides would trade momentum in the final 20 minutes of play, Brunswick had its best opportunity in the final three minutes of play.
Putting together a perfect counter-attack with Royal and Herrin dribbling the ball down the pitch, the two created a one-two opportunity that left Royal one on one with the Appling keeper. Having to get her shot off as the keeper charged, Royal found her strike saved as the keeper slid and made herself big.
As the ball was still in play, Brunswick’s Abi Edney followed up with a shot from across the goal that narrowly missed the post and rolled out of play.
Feeling defeated because they lost 1-0 and left chances out on the pitch to possibly grab a winner, Coach Medders knows there are positives to take out of this game.
“Exactly, that’s the thing,” Medders said. “All I really need is to be coachable. We can put it together and they’ve got it from here. There was a little bit of hesitation and unsure if someone was going to be somewhere. My other thing that I drill into them is just to trust your player and your position. If they aren’t there, then that’s what we need to work on. You just need to trust that they will be there when I make this play. I trust her to do that and if ain’t working then we can make a change. There is a lot of growth but we are going to be a stronger team. I’m pretty excited.”