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Tie leaves both Rebels and Blazers feeling good

September 28, 2005|by DAN KAUFFMAN

kauffman@herald-mail.com

Though the final tally on the School Stadium scoreboard made it seem there were no winners in the Clear Spring-South Hagerstown girls soccer match Tuesday night, both teams walked off the field with plenty to smile about.

For the Blazers - a team transformed by the suspension of 14 varsity players for the rest of the season - Tuesday was a chance for those remaining, as well as the JV players who have stepped in, to forget about the off-field drama and simply play. And they performed admirably, taking a 2-0 halftime lead on two well-played set pieces.

"I'm very proud of them," Clear Spring coach Jeff Semler said. "They did a great job."

And for the Rebels - who came in with five losses in five games and looked to be heading for a sixth loss - the second half provided a fresh start. South played harder, won more loose balls and converted the extra effort into two scores to pull out a 2-2 tie.

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"We didn't play our best game in the first half," Rebels coach Bruce Buhrman said. "I told them they needed to move to the ball and make sure they were getting to their marks."

South (0-5-1) started fast, producing several good offensive chances, but Clear Spring keeper Elizabeth Andrews made a couple nice saves, and after the 10-minute mark the Blazers settled down, started winning the midfield battle and created a couple chances of their own. Twice on pushes down the right side, the Blazers (2-3-1) won free kicks (one a corner kick), and both times they capitalized.

In the 30th minute, Megan Blickenstaff's penalty kick found a wide-open Kayla Hensley at the left post, and her shot squeezed past South keeper Brittany Shadrach for a 1-0 lead.

In the 38th minute, Alisha Commer's corner kick hugged the goal line while in the air, and soared directly over Shadrach's outstretched arms to Kirstie McMurray, who tapped it in to make it 2-0.

"We're playing a different defense, we have some different girls in different places, and once we got into the flow we were able to make some pushes," Semler said. "To get up 2-0 at the half, we were playing the way we needed to play. We were crossing the ball to the weak side, and we got goals off set plays."

Buhrman's halftime talk must have worked, because the Rebels were much quicker to the ball in the second half, reclaiming the advantage at midfield and cutting off most of Clear Spring's advances before they really began.

It was Devon Steiner's high, curling 40-yard penalty kick past Andrews and into the goal in the 52nd minute that really changed the tide.

"I said to one of the other coaches that if we don't score by the 70th minute, we'll never pull this out," Buhrman said. "That was a great relief and it let them know we could score."

In the 67th minute, Bri Hammond got loose up the left side and found a streaking Jena Mannick in the middle. Mannick scored easily to tie the game.

"(Jena) has a lot of speed and ball skills," Buhrman said. "She knows how to take advantage of a cross like that."

The Rebels held a 17-4 advantage in shots after the first half - including a 7-0 edge in the two overtimes - but Andrews kept South from winning outright with a couple more good saves.

"Elizabeth's doing a great job," Semler said. "She's a freshman and she made a couple great saves in the net. ... The big thing we need to do is learn to play together as a team. We made a big step tonight."

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