Lady Knights come up just short against Wilmington

Eisenhower’s Leah Peterson (16) runs past Wilmington’s Emma Hill during the second half of their match at Eisenhower High School, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. The Knights gave the Greyhounds all they could handle, but Wilmington came away with a 2-0 win.

Two minutes.

That’s all that separated the Eisenhower girls soccer team from at least pushing the 4-time defending District 10 Class 1A champions Wilmington to overtime at Eisenhower High School Thursday.

Reese Walker scored a pair of goals in a span of 2:51 in the second half to send the Greyhounds to a 2-0 win over the Lady Knights.

“From our perspective, we outplayed them,” Eisenhower assistant coach Alex Johnson said. “We just didn’t find the back of the net.”

After playing to a scoreless tie in the first half, Eisenhower put the pressure on to start the second.

Eisenhower freshman Cassie Smelko (28) collides with Wilimington sophomore Camryn Kollar (9) as they battle for possession of the ball during the second half of their match at Eisenhower High School, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019.

Caroline Smelko and Leah Peterson each made runs in the first five minutes of the half, but couldn’t get a shot off.

Nearly seven minutes in, Eisenhower keeper Faith Johnson made a heads-up play to call off a defender, grab the ball and launch a punt down the middle of the field. Smelko corralled it in the offensive zone and passed up to Peterson who was streaking down the right side. This time, Peterson got a shot off, but it hit just outside the post.

Eight minutes later, Patricia Bortz came up with the ball after a scrum in front of the net. She went left and fired a shot, but it, too, hit the outside of the cage.

“We switched from a diamond to a flatback defense to get more offensive pressure,” Alex Johnson said. “It worked today.”

Eisenhower was on the attack again just two minutes later, but a Wilmington injury forced a stoppage. The Greyhounds forced a turnover out of the timeout and showcased their speed down the field. Anna Williams sent a pass to Walker who shot it high in the right corner for the game’s first goal at 56:52.

Wilmington took advantage of its speed on the outside again on the next scoring play. Walker got the ball at center and deked right just enough to get Faith Johnson to lean that way before sending the ball to the left corner for a 2-0 lead.

The Knights continued to apply pressure throughout the half, but couldn’t convert on any of their chances and ran out of time.

“This was a huge confidence boost,” Alex Johnson said. “For 78 minutes, this was a 0-0 game. It’s encouraging.”

He went on to credit the play of Rachel Frederick on defense. Frederick shadowed Lindsey Martineau and kept her off the scoresheet.

“She played tough against (Martineau),” Alex Johnson said. “That’s probably the best striker we’ll see all season.”

The Knights also got a strong effort from freshmen Elley Eastman, Cassie Smelko and Bella Marino.

“They all stepped up and played well,” he said.

Eisenhower is scheduled to host Maplewood Monday.