Elkin soccer marches on to second round
Elkinâ€™s girls soccer team may have taken some lumps in the ultra-tough Mountain Valley 1A/2A Conference during the regular season, but the strong competition certainly got the Elks ready for the state playoffs.
â€śPlaying those 2A teams, it prepares you better,â€ť coach Joe McCulloch said of opponents like Wilkes Central, Ashe County and Forbush â€“ all of which have been ranked in 2A this season.
Elkin parlayed its murdererâ€™s row schedule into a solid 1A state playoff victory Thursday night. Senior Mary Tayloe scored twice â€“ once in each half â€“ and fellow senior Emma White added another goal in a 3-0 win against Gray Stone Day.
The Lady Elks (8-11-1) will advance to the second round of the 1A tournament to face Central Academy (14-5-1) on Saturday. Game time was still TBA as of late Thursday night. Gray Stone Day, which finished second in the Yadkin Valley Conference, ends its season at 14-3.
Gray Stone came out on the attack Thursday, but after about 10-15 minutes Elkin started asserting command. Strong midfield work from players like Catherine Schumak, Tayloe, White, Courtney Beals, Adanna Gonzales and others kept the ball in Gray Stoneâ€™s half most of the rest of the game.
Elkin very easily could have been up 3-0 after the first 25 minutes. An early shot from Tayloe bounced off the top bar. Rebekah Howard took a free kick from about 30 yards out with 27 minutes left in the half, and her shot also bounded off the top of the goal. Another Howard free kick 10 minutes later hit the outside corner of the goal and landed out of bounds.
White and Tayloe finally connected on a scoring run with 13 minutes to play before intermission. White dribbled into the penalty box on the right side. After battling for possession for several seconds, she finally managed to send the ball toward the middle. Tayloe collected and used her left foot to find the back of the net.
â€śEmma and Mary worked really well up top,â€ť McCulloch said. â€śMary played one of her better games tonight. Sheâ€™s not left-footed but she is very comfortable using her left foot. When we do shooting drills, she actually hits it better using her left foot.â€ť
White and Tayloe created more havoc in the Gray Stone penalty box as the clock ticked under three minutes to go in the first half. The Knights were able to repel a couple of shots before White finally cleaned up the garbage for a 2-0 lead.
The third Elkin goal came with 32:39 to play in the second half. Howard cleared the ball out of the back and sent it through to Tayloe, who broke away from the pack and beat the Gray Stone keeper one-on-one.
From there, the Elks defense handled the rest. Keeper Sarah Snow earned a shutout, knocking away a couple of Gray Stone threats.
Makayla Dimmette played a nice supporting role to Tayloe and White on offense. Schumak had a strong game in the midfield for the Elks, often connecting defense to offense with passes. Payton Nicholson, Kris Henasey and Kaela Henasey also helped keep possession in the Elks favor much of the evening.
â€śOne of the parents said they thought this might be one of our better games and I think it was,â€ť McCulloch said. â€śYouâ€™ve got to have that this time of season. Youâ€™ve got to play your best game or you go home.â€ť
Elkin coaches were a little wary of Gray Stone going into the match. The Knights had a much better overall record â€“ Elkin was the host team based on predetermined seeding priority â€“ and their only losses had come to East Montgomery in conference play.
The Elksâ€™ win made the Mountain Valley 5-0 in first-round games, with four victories being shutouts. West Wilkes won its 1A playoff opener 3-0 against South Stokes on Wednesday. Forbush, Wilkes Central and Ashe County all earned 2A playoff wins Tuesday night.
â€śWe have struggled this year. I didnâ€™t know how well weâ€™d do,â€ť McCulloch said. â€śBut the seniors, having been there before, probably were more relaxed. It helped having that experience. And it was good to have the first round at home.â€ť
Central Academy is located in Monroe, about a two hour drive from Elkin. CATA, the top seed from the Rocky River Conference, beat West Montgomery 4-0 in its playoff opener Thursday.
Other second-round match-ups involving MVAC teams include:
* Wilkes Central at West Stokes, Saturday at 10:30 a.m.
* Bishop McGuinness at West Wilkes, Friday at 6 p.m.
* Forbush at Piedmont, Saturday, TBA
* Ashe County at Cuthbertson, Saturday, TBA