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BASTIAN –– It was Galax girls’ soccer coach Troy Barkley’s supposition that it was just good for his players to get back on the field. Even if a lot of the field got on them.
Having played just once through the end of March, the Maroon Tide opened its Mountain Empire District season in conditions more commonly seen on fall Friday nights after a hurricane had passed through, with temperatures hovering around the freezing mark, snow flurries flying about from time to time and standing water covering large portions of the playing field.
After a quick strike by Bland County, Galax clamped down defensively and slogged off the field with a 4-1 win Friday afternoon.
“It was nice to just get one in because of the weather,” said Barkley as his team headed toward the locker room wearing a fair amount of Bland County mud on their uniforms. “That team has improved a lot, and I think we’ve improved a lot. We’re going to have to play well to win the district this year, but the girls are playing hard, they’re listening and they’re working together.”
It took a quick punch in the nose by Bland to shake Galax (2-0 overall, 1-0 MED) from a sluggish start. Awarded a penalty kick after being taken down in front of the goal, the Bears’ Jessie Peery drilled a low liner to the right side for a 1-0 Bland lead in the 16th minute.
Galax answered with its own penalty shot three minutes later. Marleigh Durham had her legs taken out from under her while attempting a shot from 10 yards away, and Sonia Solis converted the PK, knotting the score at one goal apiece.
“The biggest thing we need right now is to play some games,” said Barkley. “We’ve got to get the girls out playing. There’s only so much you can learn in practice. You have to get them out playing, get them used to playing together and communicating. We gave up a goal early and we were just sluggish. It’s been two weeks since we’ve played. But once we got into it we started playing well.”
The goal that would prove to be the game-winner was a thing of beauty. On a direct kick from 30-plus yards away, Solis placed a high arcing shot just under the crossbar and off the fingertips of leaping Bland goalkeeper Michaela Peery for a 2-1 lead in the 25th minute.
Yesenia Jaime added to the lead four minutes before the half, popping in a rebounded shot to put Galax ahead 3-1.
Jessie Peery clanged a shot off the crossbar just before the end of the half for what would be Bland’s final scoring opportunity of the match.
While the Maroon Tide kept the Bears attackers out of range in the second half, Galax added one last score when Durham connected on an unassisted goal from just outside the 18-yard box in the 61st minute.
Galax outshot the Bears 11-7, with seven shots on goal to four for Bland. After the early penalty shot, Galax keeper Abbi Ponce stopped the next four shots that made it to her.
Galax 4, Bland County 1
Scoring summary: BC – Peery 13’ (unassisted); Gal – Solis 19’ (unassisted); Gal – Solis 25’ (unassisted); Gal – Jaime 36’ (unassisted); Gal – Durham 61’ (unassisted).
Shots (on goal) 11(7) 9(4)
Fouls 12 10
Corner kicks 0 2
Offsides 1 0
Yellow cards 0 0
Red cards 0 0
Saves 4 3
Galax 8, Bland County 0: The Maroon Tide got eight goals from eight different players and evened its record at 1-1 in its MED opener Friday evening.
Playing on a field chewed up by the preceding girls’ game, Galax shrugged off the conditions and peppered the Bland County goal for 23 shots, including 13 on goal.
Sam Hix gave Galax all the offense it would need, poking in a rebound in the fifth minute for a quick 1-0 Maroon Tide lead.
Galax would add three goals by halftime, then tack on four more in the second half to end the game in the 61st minute on the mercy rule.
Juan Hernandez converted Leonel Vega’s corner three minutes after Hix’s goal, and Zach Testerman connected from short range in the 15th minute.
A hand ball in the 18-yard box set up a penalty kick for Tanner Edwards, who tucked his shot inside the left post for a 4-0 lead 23 minutes in.
Galax outshot Bland County 15-0 in the first half and didn’t allow the Bears inside the 18-yard box until two minutes before the end of the game. Chase Havens found himself in the clear and bore down on the Tide goal, but Kevint Flores made a nice diving stop on what would be Bland’s only shot of the evening.
Galax had added three second-half goals by that time for a 7-0 lead. Vega drove in and popped the ball over a defender’s head, gathering his own feed and converting in the 44th minute. Matthew Wright and Tyler Bowen added goals five minutes apart, and the Tide ended the match when Junior Espinosa sent a perfectly-placed leading pass to Miguel Lopez, who managed to stay onside before taking the feed and scoring from 10 yards out.
Espinosa had two assists for Galax, which outshot Bland County 23-1.
Galax 8, Bland County 0
Scoring summary: Gal – Hix 5’ (unassisted); Gal – Hernandez 8’ (Vega); Gal – Testerman 15’ (unassisted); Edwards 22’ (unassisted); Gal – Vega 44’ (unassisted); Gal – Wright 52’ (Espinosa); Gal – Bowen 57’ (unassisted); Gal – Lopez 61’ (Espinosa).
Shots (on goal) 23(13) 1(1)
Fouls 0 11
Corner kicks 7 1
Offsides 0 0
Yellow cards 3 1
Red cards 0 0
Saves 1 5
Yellow cards: Galax – Hernandez, Vega, Espinosa; Bland County – Collins.