Fast start: Lady Dragons roll past North East in opener

NORTH EAST, Pa. – New season, new region, same goals.

The Warren Lady Dragons Soccer team opened up the 2018 season accomplishing a first for any of the players currently on the team – an opening day win. The 6-0 non-region win over North East Saturday was a great indicator that they are ready for the demanding season ahead.

“It’s always a good feeling to start the season playing well. The girls are super fit, they played great team soccer , never let up and they are adapting well to our new system of play “ said third year coach Jeremy Bickling.

Kyra Wotorson and Mackenzie Bickling scored two goals each for the Lady Dragons, while MJ Fadale and Jessica Susz added the others. Alyssa Anderson made six saves in net for the shutout.

It was evident from the first whistle that the Lady Dragons were going to relentlessly attack the North East goal. Warren was aggressive from the start creating several threatening shots on goal that the North East goal keeper was able to collect. The Lady Grape Pickers struggled to get the ball past midfield as Warren pressed every player hard and forced them to make rushed decisions eventually leading to turnovers.

“I like how we started with high energy and never let up .We had a few early opportunities that could have easily been goals, but their keeper did a nice job,” coach Bickling said.

Susz opened up the scoring for the season making a run toward the goal and finishing off a pass from Wotorson . That was quickly followed up by a corner kick opportunity that the Lady Dragons were able to convert into a goal. Senior Mackenzie Bickling was able to bend the corner kick into the goal that North East keeper was not able to secure.

“Our first couple of goal came from good pressure on the opposition’s goal,” coach Bickling said. “We are really putting an emphasis on possession and protecting the ball. We’re pleased that they converted so many possessions into scoring opportunities. They are playing on another level.”

Part of that success possessing the ball was evident by how quickly the Lady Dragons midfield and defense snuffed out any threats from the Pickers . Senior Shelby Smith , Juniors Jessica Susz, Emily Egger and Brooklynn Neureiter leading the way defensively. Neureiter amassed impressive defensive statistics (12 tackles, 6 steals), shutting down most North East attacks before the could get organized .

“We play a high risk , high reward style of soccer,” noted Bickling. “There’s a ton of pressure put on our defenders, we’re typically attacking with up to seven players at a time. Brooklynn is healthy this season and she really had a stellar game. We’re very pleased with the defenses success disrupting North East from building any momentum . They didn’t allow North East to ever get off a threatening shot.”

Anderson, a freshman, started her varsity career with a shutout.

Warren took a 2 -0 goal lead into the half. Knowing they had missed some close opportunities in the first half , the Lady Dragons looked to open things up in the second 40 minute period.

Warren returned to work putting pressure on the North East defense, many occasions leaving the Pickers with little option but to kick the ball out of bounds. Sophomore Kyleigh Wilson showed why she’s a multi-sport star for Warren. Wilson hurled a throw-in into the center of the goal box for Bickling to finish off for a goal.

That was just the beginning of a second half run on goals which would see sophomore Wotorson pick up where she left off with her 20 goal freshman season. Wotorson first finished off a second goal opportunity from a throw in, later following up with a run behind the defense to pick up a ball that Bickling had played for the sophomore.

The Lady Dragons finished off the second half with a play that showcased their potential. North East played the ball out from their defense were midfielder MJ Fadale collected the ball, dropped the ball back to the defense and in a matter of two passes around the midfield had the ball at her feet to finish off an overlapping run with a pass from Rylie Yeager .

“That goal was nothing short of brilliant,” coach Bickling said. “The recognition of the needed movement away from the ball, what space we were making available with our passing and the timing needed to execute the pass was a whole new level of execution for this team.”

With just minutes left the Lady Dragons still had their foot on the gas ringing a couple of near misses off of the goal.

“We have challenged the girls to find an identity this season. It’s important . It shows we control how we play, and the outcome will take care of itself . They know part of that identity is protecting the ball and keeping possession,” Bickling said. “Our offensive weapons typically get most of the spotlight because it’s how the game is measured outwardly … but this was a total team effort. They played FOR each other , and that’s a really potent attitude to have. We won’t see many teams as committed to each other as this group. “

The Lady Dragons get little time to savor their win. They jump into region matchups this week, starting with the two 4A schools in Region 6, McDowell and Erie High. Kick off is 6 p.m. for JV and 7:30 for varsity against McDowell on Tuesday. In JV action Warren and North East finished knotted in a 1-1 tie. Freshman Katie Beyer scored her first high school goal to bring the game even in the second half. Mikaala Deppen, Aubrianna Navarolli, and Rebecca Thayer all had strong games after putting in time in the varsity game.