WYALUSING — Coming off a tough loss at Troy earlier this week, Wyalusing girls’ soccer coach Gary Haley wasn’t sure how his squad would respond. But on senior night the Rams came out big, and sent a few ripples through the league, as they held on to beat Northeast Bradford 6-5 on Saturday.
Wyalusing, NEB, and Troy are now all tied in the NTL standings in the loss column with one loss each, with a little more than half the season to go.
“It was a tough loss to Troy, and coach Alvarez and I, in practice, we talked about what our potential is, and how we performed, and Troy’s a great team, but we felt we could perform a little bit better,” explained Haley. “And we challenged the girls to step up today, because Northeast has a really strong team, and we knew if we didn’t play our best, we weren’t going to beat them.”
It was certainly one of their best efforts, especially from forward Olivia Haley, who had five goals in the match, including the game winner with 4:03 left in the contest.
“My coaches always tell me to stay up, and when I get the ball, to take it up the field,” Olivia explained. “I took it up the field, tried to score, and, fortunately, it went in. I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. They were such a huge help, and they played really well together this game.”
Layla Botts had the other goal, to go with three assists. Addison Bly added two assists, while Chloe Bennett also had a helper.
For NEB five different players found the back of the net: Alena Beebe, Keirra Thoman, Lizzy Gorsline, Melanie Shumway, and Kayleigh Thoman. Kayleigh Thoman also had two assists for the Panthers.
The Panthers played catch-up the whole game, but finally pulled it even with 10:28 left to play.
“Our girls overcame some adversity,” said coach Haley. “We were up 5-3 there with 11 or 12 minutes left, and we were feeling good, and then we had some things go against us. And we were a little bit worried how we would respond, because last time, we kind of got our heads down, and the girls stayed in there, they stayed positive, they kept working.”
Olivia had their first three goals to put them up 3-1 in the first half, then nabbed their two finals goals to get the win.
“I’m really proud of her,” said coach Haley. “She stepped up, and was able to get some goals early on, and then get the game winning goal later. We needed that, she’s primarily our top go to girl up front, and we tell her she’s got to step up, and make plays, and she’s been doing that.”
At one point, NEB switch Shumway back to guard her, which kept her in check, but the Panther offense wasn’t generating the kinds of looks to needed for the equalizer in the second half like they were in the first. They were forced to move Shumway up as time got low, and Olivia eventually got loose enough to make them pay.
“They came back, and we just had to work even harder to get the last goal,” said Olivia.
The Rams took a lead right after the first horn when Haley scored off a Bly helper to make it 1-0.
The Panthers would respond a few minutes later, with 33:19 on the clock, as Kayleigh Thoman drove to the end line, then passed back in front of the goal to a waiting Beebe, who drove it home.
It stayed locked at 1-1 until the 26:47 mark when Botts found Haley, who used a low corner shot to beat the goalie for a 2-1 lead.
With 19:30 left NEB nearly got the equalizer when Gorsline found Kayleigh Thoman in front of the goal, but her attempt went just over the crossbar.
Wyalusing, though, got them on the counter, as Haley got free, and scored for the hat trick with 18:37 on the clock to make it 3-1.
It didn’t take long for NEB to answer, as, on a cross, Keirra Thoman beat Wyalusing keeper Sophia Alvarez to the ball, and punched it home to make it 3-3.
The Panthers’ offense continued to generate looks, and they tied it up at the 7:36 mark as Kayleigh Thoman once again got the end line, then passed up to the front of the box, where Gorsline one touched it home to make it 3-3.
Wyalusing, though, answered, and this time it was Botts. She was able to shake two defenders, and put a low shot past the keeper to make it 4-3 with 6:48 left to play.
NEB continued to pound the Wyalusing end, and, in the final minute, a long throw from Kayleigh Thoman gave them a good chance in front of the net, but Wyalusing was able to clear.
The second half was a little more stagnant, though NEB had solid chances off a Shumway header and a loose ball in front of the net on a Shumway cross.
Then, with 12:16 left to play, Haley got the ball at midfield, and drove past the NEB defense for a 1-on-1 with the keeper, and put it home for the 2-goal lead.
The Panthers didn’t give up, though, as less than a minute later Shumway got the ball off a bad Wyalusing turnover, and quickly punched it home to make it 5-4.
Then, with 10:28 on the clock, Kierra Thoman was driving into the box when she was tripped. Kayleigh Thoman than hit home the ensuing penalty shot to tie things up at 5-5.
That set up Haley’s heroics with just over four minutes to go. She once again got the ball at midfield, drove by the defense, and placed a hard shot low. NEB keeper Leah Beebe got her hands on it, but wasn’t enough to keep it out of the goal for the game winner.
NEB had a 29-14 edge in shots. Alvarez had 19 saves for Wyalusing, while Leah Beebe finished with 11 for NEB.
“This is a team that just beat Athens, and it feels really, really good to beat them,” Olivia said.
Despite giving up five goals, coach Haley felt his defense played well when NEB had them under pressure, particularly late in the first half.
“They did a lot of good things,” he said. “Our goalie made some good saves, our defense saved the ball on numerous occasions. Northeast, they have the girls who bring it, and they’re going to keep bringing it, so it’s going to be a heck of a game next time.”
The Panthers will look to rebound as they host NP-Mansfield on Tuesday, then travel to Williamson on Thursday.
This stretch has been a bit of murder’s row for the Rams - Troy, NEB, and now they take on Athens next Tuesday - so they’re finding out just what kind of team they are.
“We knew that if we don’t play our best we could lose all three, but if we played our best, we thought we the ability to compete, and possibly beat all three teams,” said coach Haley. “Right now, we’re 1-1. Athens is an ice team, and nothing is given, and I hope the girls don’t look at this as we had a big win and now we can play down a little bit, because if we do that Athens will certainly take advantage.”
PHOTO CAPTION: Wyalusing’s Olivia Haley scores the game winner against NEB…PHOTOS BY CHRIS MANNING