CLAYTON — It didn’t take long for Cleveland girls soccer coach Marissa DiMarco to find out how her team would respond to adversity in the Rams’ second round contest of the NCHSAA 3A state playoffs against visiting Eastern Alamance.
Down a goal a mere 75 seconds into the contest, Cleveland rebounded for four first half goals en route to a 4-2 win Friday over the Eagles that propelled the Rams to the third round of the state playoffs.
“The first two minutes we were caught sleeping a little bit back there,” DiMarco said. “We rebounded and that’s exactly the response I want from my girls. When we went down, we didn’t put our heads down and instead we played harder.”
Harder and smarter.
The trio of attacking players for the Rams — Cassidy McNierney, Courtney Morris and Emily Truelove — was too much for the Eastern Alamance defenders to contain.
Truelove beat the Eagles’ attempt at pulling an offside trap and found McNierney behind the Eastern Alamance back four for an easy goal nine minutes after falling behind to tie the game.
In the 23rd minute, Morris found Truelove on a corner kick and the team’s leading scorer found the back of the net from 20 yards out to give the Rams the lead.
Truelove struck again after completing a give-and-go with McNierney inside the box before McNierney finished off the Rams’ scoring on a nice lead pass from Morris in the final moments of the first half.
“Obviously Emily and Cassidy stepped it up tonight with their finishing,” said DiMarco. “Cassidy and Emily with all their give-and-go’s and Courtney up there. With all that speed and touches, it was definitely a good combination.”
After Sara Jackowski’s early goal in the first half, the Eagles were completely dominated the final 38-plus minutes of play in the half.
The story was a bit different in the second half as Eastern Alamance (11-6-2) went on the attack with Cydney Baptiste and Mercedes Fisher starting to take hold in the midfield.
The Eagles drew to within 4-2 after a long Carly Culler throw-in bounced in front of the Cleveland goal where Elisabeth Mann was waiting to chest the ball into the goal.
The visitors, the fourth place team out of the Mid-State Conference, almost struck again in similar fashion two minutes later but this time Cleveland goalkeeper Katelyn Lowery was able to make a huge kick save on Mann’s attempt at goal to preserve the two-goal advantage.
Lowery ended her night with eight saves, six of which came in the second half.
Lowery’s counterpart, Marisa Camuto posted 11 saves for the game.
The Rams will head into this upcoming week’s contest against the No. 1 seed from the Mid-State Conference, Northern Guilford, with some confidence.
“We’re a good team and we can play with anybody if we play our game and in the first half, they showed it,” DiMarco said. “If they can play like that for two halves, they can play with anybody.”