VALE — The East Lincoln Lady Mustangs gained a road victory Wednesday with a 4-0 shutout over a Southern Piedmont 1A/2A Conference rival in the West Lincoln Lady Rebels.
The Mustangs gained three of their goals in the first 10 minutes and all inside the first half.
Head Coach Jason Dragoon, who’s now in his 12th season over the school’s women’s soccer program, has no doubt that his squad is displaying top-notch play this year and has potential to gain the SPC 1A/2A Conference title.
“We have a good chance of finishing first,” he said, “but that is a long way out.”
Dragoon also pulled most of his starters from the field following the first 20 minutes of the match. He felt confident in his team’s lead and wanted to rest first-string players while giving additional individuals more experience.
West Lincoln commenced the first half with a strong attack, attempting to send the ball up field in an effort to gain a first goal, however, their visiting opponent proved more aggressive, quickly thwarting the Lady Rebels’ first few seconds of success.
It wasn’t long before the Lady Mustangs went running down the field, cheering their first goal off a corner kick at the 2-minute mark. Sophomore Lexi Smith gained the point with an assist from senior teammate Dalton Bell, who took the corner, Dragoon said.
Four minutes later, East Lincoln doubled their lead with a second team goal at the 6-minute mark. Following freshman Mustang Audrey Cardwell’s throw-in near the Lady Rebels’ defending net, senior Tatum Auvil snagged the ball and weaved in and out of red jerseys until she sent a low, hard shot past West Lincoln sophomore goalkeeper Addie McAlister.
The East Lincoln squad continued to pound the home team’s net, obtaining a third goal 10 minutes into the half. It was the team’s second score off a corner kick, which Bell took, sending the ball high over players’ heads and straight to junior teammate Megan Lauterer, who stood at the “back door” of the net, waiting for a clear shot.
West Lincoln defenders remained strong during the match, never showing signs of discouragement over the score margin. Senior Shelby Barkley and junior teammate Olivia Sain worked to keep orange jerseys clear of the goal area, whether that meant running down opponents as they beelined to the net or backing up the goalkeeper during intense play.
Although Bell gained the Lady Mustangs’ final match goal midway through the first half, the team continued to receive offsides calls. Referees blew their whistles at least seven times for the illegal play.
West Lincoln senior forward Taylor Sutton stood out among her peers towards the end of the match after East Lincoln switched up their lineup and sent in more sophomore and freshman players, giving Lady Rebels the opportunity to rack up more attacks on goal.
“Our future got an opportunity to get in a lot of good minutes,” Dragoon said.
West Lincoln also switched out goalkeepers in the second half, replacing McAlister with freshman Brittany Dalama.
Following the match, the Denver team boasts a winning 2-0 conference record, but Dragoon knows his squad still has a large portion of the season ahead with challenging games against the North Lincoln Lady Knights and reigning conference champion, Lake Norman Charter.
“North is always a tough one due to the rivalry the (game) brings,” Dragoon said.
East Lincoln has also already faced several setbacks this season including a concussion for goalkeeper Molli Dallin and an ACL tear for seasoned player, senior Allie Danese, who was forced to end her high school soccer career early after the injury.
“That was a big loss for us,” Dragoon said. “We had to reformulate our tactics, and it has taken us a little while to adjust but…several players are starting to step up to fill her shoes.”