OAK HILL — The rain and subsequent effect on the field affected both teams’ play, but favored neither.
Greenbrier East took an early 2-0 lead, then Samiah Lynch punched in a couple of goals for Oak Hill and the Class AAA rivals left with a 2-2 draw Tuesday night.
Most of the game was played under a rain of varying intensity, providing for slick grass and a slick ball.
“We were hoping to be a little bit more possessive but the rain kind of changed that and made it a back and forth game,” Greenbrier East coach Mike Dotson said. “It was an exciting game. (Lynch) had two goals for them then they had a couple of good chances, then we had a couple of good chances. It was an exciting game to watch and an exciting game to coach.”
The back-and-forth started from the get-go, with each team coming up empty on two shots in the first 10 minutes.
It was the Spartans (0-2-1) who were able to break through first in the 14th minute. Oak Hill keeper Eden Gilkey was able to deflect one shot, but East freshman Caroline Dotson was there for the loose ball and deposited into the left of the net for her team’s first goal of the season and a 1-0 lead.
Fourteen minutes later, junior forward Kylie Criddle scored off a corner kick and the Spartans appeared to be in control with a 2-0 lead.
But Lynch, the Red Devils’ senior leader, used her speed to get herself open in front of the net and fire one in to get Oak Hill (2-1-1) the board in the 32nd minute.
It would remain 2-1 until halftime, then Lynch struck again. She took an assist from Bethany Rosiek and scored from about 10 yards to tie the game at 2-2 in the 48th minute.
First-year Oak Hill coach Gerald Wilburn felt his team was not able to convert on opportunities.
“We played better in the second half, but they were still beating us to the ball. They really were outhustling us, more than anything,” he said. “All in all I was happy that we fought back and we at least got a tie out of it.”
Lynch now has a team-high three goals on the season. Her senior leadership has been important through the first four games.
“She picks us up and that’s who they go to and look to for leadership, her and (Gilkey),” Wilburn said. “It’s a group effort. It’s definitely a team. It’s not one person doing it all. We’re not very deep coming off the bench. It’s definitely a team effort.”
Wilburn said the team’s youthfulness has shown early.
“We’re still learning,” he said. “There’s a lot of improvements we’ve still got to make as a team. We’re young. The older girls have been carrying us. We’ve just got to get more aggressive. We play a lot of freshmen and sophomores. But every game we’re getting better.”
Greenbrier East opened the season with shutout losses to Hurricane and Buckhannon-Upshur, teams Dotson said “are faster with the ball and we’ve got to learn to play like that.” The Spartans are coming off a what-if type of season — they could not play in sectionals because of Covid protocols.
“I plan every year hoping we hit our stride right before sectionals, and last year we had a few people out right before our last couple of games,” Dotson said. “We were hoping to get them back and it got away from us. As coaches we press not knowing when our last game was. This year we’re working on development as we go through our season.
“We didn’t get to sub as much as I wanted to tonight. That’s going to happen some games. But that’s our main goal, to develop this team, get them more chemistry as they learn each other and hopefully by the middle of September, early part of October we’re ready to play for sectionals.”
Oak Hill will visit George Washington Saturday at 11 a.m. East will take on Cabell Midland at 2 p.m. that day at the YMCA Paul Cline Memorial Youth Sports Complex in Beckley.
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