Ashley Pearl can use all the technical jargon she wants to describe stopping several point-blank Sheldon shots in the second half that saved Oak Ridge’s hide but that still doesn’t explain how the Trojan goalie single-handedly helped her team avoid a loss.
On the other side, the Huskies boarded the bus wondering how they didn’t win last Wednesday’s Delta River League match that ended in a 0-0 tie.
Pearl, who took over for Nina Grimes after halftime, had an active final 40 minutes compared to Grimes as the offenses for both teams heated up. Thanks to Pearl, the Trojans had opportunities to win after a quiet opening half.
But the best chance at victory rested with Sheldon and forward Ashari Hines. Hines, the Huskies’ second-leading scorer, used quickness and slick ballhandling to free herself in the box for several shots she’d like to have back.
Pearl knocked Hines’ first bullet over the crossbar. Hines was in even better position for her next shot — a car length in front of Pearl — but with cat-like reaction the Oak Ridge keeper made the huge block. Hines actually had another great look in the box after juking three defenders but sailed it high.
“On that first tip I saw her (Hines) lean back so I knew she was going high. I just stayed light on my feet and having long arms helped,” Pearl said. “On the second attempt she was so close I had to gauge the way she cut the ball and took an educated guess she’d go low and she did.”
Ironically, Pearl’s stop started an Oak Ridge counterattack that saw Troy put its best shot on goal. Sheldon goalie Sidney Coleman dove and blocked it and just as Trojan Haley Karickhoff tried to follow she was pushed off the ball — a non call that drew the home team’s ire — and Coleman was back on her feet for the grab.
After a defensive first half, Karickhoff, Marissa Ribeiro, Olivia Frace, Carisa Rivers, Cheyanne Gold and others pressured the Husky backfield toward the end as the Oak Ridge defense of Caira Woo, Alex Ghilarducci, Amanda Sticklemann, Tiffani Reimers, Julia Crawford and Paige Okazaki got a much-needed breather.
“We had a lot of pressure at the end of the second half so offensively our second half was better than the first,” Karickhoff said.
Considering Hines had two, probably three excellent chances to convert, the Trojans were fortunate to tie the Huskies, who beat them 4-1 at their place. But since Oak Ridge (1-2-3) is near the bottom of the league, the tie wasn’t the desired outcome.
“It’s better than a loss but we wanted to get the win to get the extra points so we’re kinda disappointed,” Trojan coach Henry Reis said. “We were just flat all over today and played maybe 10 minutes of good soccer. It wasn’t our best day.”