WENDELL — East Wake stayed close to Wake Forest in the Warriors’ season opener Wednesday night, but the Cougars dominated possession in the second half and booted their way to a 2-0 win.
Playing just one day after ice and sleet closed Wake County schools, the Warriors (0-1) looked like the more aggressive team in the first half. They put together a handful of promising runs at the Cougar goal midway through the period but Wake Forest’s freshman keeper, Madison McNally, was up to the task.
McNally’s first strong save came at the 19:45 mark of the first half on a shot by East Wake’s Kalyn Johnson. Again at 15:53, McNally stopped a close-range shot by Sandy Gonzalez. The two saves came just after a strong rush by East Wake in which the Warrior front line outnumbered the Cougar defenders, but East Wake couldn’t get a shot on goal after Wake Forest dug the ball away.
Wake Forest’s first goal came off the foot of sophomore Leslie Blalock. After East Wake appeared to clear a corner kick, Wake Forest’s midfielders centered the ball into a scrum in front of the goal. The ball squirted up and over the East Wake defenders and in front of Blalock, who powered it past East Wake keeper LA Tedder from 10 feet out.
Cougar coach Jeremiah Mattingly, who urged his team before the goal to battle for possession, repeated his message at halftime and his players got the memo.
“We were playing the ball too much in the center of the field in the first half. I wanted us to keep the ball in their third of the field in the second half,” Mattingly said.
Wake Forest did just that for much of the second half, pressuring Tedder and the East Wake defenders for much of the rest of the game and taking advantage of poor ball control by the Warriors.
“We’ll go back and work on ball control,” East Wake coach Crystal Espey said. “That, and we’ve got to move more. We’ve got to get ourselves open and then control the ball on the first touch and make good passes.”
Tedder made three strong saves in the first 10 minutes of the second half for East Wake, including one from close range that appeared to ricochet off Tedder’s face.
Wake Forest got its insurance goal at the 28:10 mark of the second period when sophomore Jillian Noble got behind the Warrior line for a breakaway goal under Tedder’s hands into the left corner of the goal.
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