By RYAN HERMAN
DENVER –– Newton-Conover didn’t forget what happened the last time it and East Lincoln got together on the soccer field.
Now East Lincoln is forced to remember what happened the second time around.
The Red Devils scored three unanswered goals in the second half and held the Mustangs to just two shots on goal en route to a 3-0 win Wednesday that pulled the teams even in the race for the Southern District 7 Athletic 2A Conference girls soccer title.
Had East Lincoln (12-4-1, 8-1-0) knocked off Newton-Conover for a second time this season, it would be sitting pretty with a two-match lead in the standings.
Instead, the Red Devils (10-3-0, 8-1-0) avenged their earlier 3-2 overtime loss and made the conference race a shootout to the end.
“Our girls were upset after the first game … they were ready today,” Newton-Conover coach Angelo Palozzi said.
Newton-Conover held possession for most of the match, and outshot its opponent 9-2, with both of the Mustangs’ attempts coming on free kicks.
Jessica Hayes broke the scoreless tie inside of 27 minutes to play when she put in a loose ball in front of the net on a free kick.
Ten minutes later Chaniece Moss gave the Red Devils a 2-0 lead –– the same lead East Lincoln rallied back from in the teams’ previous meeting on March 20 –– when the Mustangs let a ball get by them on a pass ahead to Moss.
The match was iced when Alex McClure was whistled for a foul in the box and given a yellow card, which resulted in a penalty kick.
Gretchen Crider covered the freebie, and at that point all East Lincoln could do was play out the remaining 13:43.
“That was the nail in the coffin. At that point there was no coming back,” Mustangs coach Jason Dragoon said.
“It was a physically and mentally bad performance overall.”
The loss snapped East Lincoln’s 12-match win streak, and put pressure on it with matches left against Bandys, Lincolnton, and Thursday’s match at fourth-place West Caldwell.
Whereas the Mustangs could have afforded a hiccup in conference play had they won, the loss put added emphasis on each remaining league tilt.
East Lincoln got off on the right foot with a 1-0 win at West Caldwell.
“We absolutely blew it,” Dragoon said. “Now those games matter. If we’d won, then we could afford to give up one. Now this changes the dynamic of things.”