Closing the Gap: Warren battles in Region 6 setback to McDowell

Warren’s Emily Egger (19) battles with McDowell’s Kylee Cross for possession during the second half of Monday’s game at War Memorial Field.

The last time the Warren Area High School girls soccer team squared off with McDowell, the result was an 8-1 loss.

And while they didn’t find their way into the win column this time around, either, the Lady Dragons played much better, dropping a 4-1 decision in a game

in which they scored the first goal.

“I definitely saw that we’re playing at a higher level than we started the season at,” said Warren coach Jeremy Bickling. “We’re improving. Are we at their (McDowell’s) level? Not yet.”

It took just over six minutes for the game’s first goal, and it came courtesy of senior standout Mackenzie Bickling, who made a great run down the left side and fired a shot past Lady Trojan keeper Julianna Bruno.

“To have a player like Mackenzie, a lot of those girls are her teammates playing club, so for her to go out and take her team and set the pace for us and get us up a goal was great,” coach Bickling said. ” I was proud of the team and proud of her to get that goal.”

Warren’s Aubrianna Navaroli clears the ball out of harm;s way during Monday’s match against McDowell.

That lead held until almost exactly the midway point of the first half, when Alayna Wicker tied the game 1-1.

McDowell had the better of the chances in the first half, and Wicker nearly struck again with a shot off the crossbar just four minutes later.

They converted those chances into a goal that gave them the lead going into halftime, as Kylee Cross’ corner kick was aided by Gabriella Desanto.

Defensively, however, the Lady Dragons were stout, led by a group that includes Shelby Smith, Aubrianna Navaroli, Jessica Susz, Lennon Dailey and Emily Egger.

“With these teams with lots of weapons we strategically changed our formations,” coach Bickling said. “I think tonight was better than what we did against Hickory, although the score doesn’t reflect it. I believe two of those goals were just that’s what happens in soccer kind of goals. So to me, the defense, I only saw two goals that they actually gave up. Defensively, the did everything they could to keep us in the game.”

Warren’s Paige Johnson saves a ball from going out of bounds during the second half of Monday’s match against McDowell at War Memorial Field.

The field really opened up in the second half, and Warren had a chance right off the bat on a run by Kyra Wotorson, but McDowell’s defense was able to stand tall.

Moments later, McDowell’s Natalie Corrales rattled a shot off the post.

With 28 minutes to go, the Lady Dragons had a beautiful run down the field, with Kyleigh Wilson connecting with Bickling, who found Brooklyn Neureiter, whose shot went just high.

With 19:54 to play McDowell made it 3-1, courtesy of Cross, and tacked on a late marker with just over six minutes left to account for the final score.

Alyssa Anderson was tested early and often, and played another strong game in net for Warren .

Warren's Brooklynn Neureiter battles for possession against McDowell on Monday.

Overall, it was a game for the Lady Dragons that shows they are on the cusp of doing great things.

“Closing the gap is a big deal to us,” coach Bickling said. “Tonight is just dealing with a really good team and taking the lessons that we learn and improving. We did a much better job tonight than before against them.”

Warren's Kyleigh Wilson goes up for a header during Monday's match against McDowell.