CLAYTON — Maybe it was because his young team was stretched to its limit and persevered, maybe it was because his squad finally got a ball past a great goalkeeper on top of her game or maybe it was simply because Claudia Woznichak’s overtime goal was dramatic.
Either way, Clayton girls soccer coach Williams Williams experienced a first of his coaching career after his junior striker found the back of the net on what proved to be the game winning goal in a 2-1 overtime win over Garner: Williams fell to the ground.
“We both played our hearts out; it’s always a huge game,” Williams said, trying to explain his emotions. “We haven’t been on the lucky end lately and it was nice to get (over) that hurdle and I think it’s going to do a world of good for their confidence.”
The victory pushed the Comet’s record to 4-2 but, more importantly, to 3-1 in the Greater Neuse River 4A Conference.
After the two teams stood toe-to-toe against one another for 80 minutes and the score remained tied, Clayton appeared to reach another level early in the first of two overtime sessions. The Comets pounded the Garner goal in the opening minutes and threatened to take the lead.
However, Garner goalie Elizabeth Pittman kept the score tied with a handful of tremendous saves including three within a span of 50 seconds. The senior keeper first dove to her right to turn back one shot, kicked the ball clear on another shot from point blank range and pushed a strike destined for the top of the net over the crossbar.
Finally, after Woznichak sprung Lauren Daniels free behind the Garner defense, a goal would result as Daniel’s attempt was promptly turned back by a diving Pittman only to have Woznichak in position to loft the rebound into the open net.
“We just seem to always know where each other’s at and know each other’s next move and so we’re able to work together really well,” Woznichak said of her connection with Daniels.
Daniels played a part in Clayton’s first goal of the game as well late in the first half as she again took a ball from Woznichak and let fly for the far post. The shot forced Pittman to make another diving save which then ricocheted off of the Comets’ Caitlin Kemp and into the goal for a 1-0 lead.
The goal came against the run of play, however, as the Trojans owned most of the game’s best chances up to that point including eight corner kicks in the first half alone.
Clayton’s Lauryn Kabrich made 10 saves to keep the Trojans at bay including three from within close range in the first half.
“We let a team hang around that we should have put away early,” Garner coach Joe Dennis said. “They took their chances when they got them.
“We didn’t play bad but when we get our chances, we just need to finish them.”
Garner (1-4-1, 1-1-1 GNRC) finally got one past Kabrich in the second half when Bayleigh Adams dropped back to center midfield from her usual forward position and slotted a through pass to Taylor Cooke. Cooke converted the opportunity as she struck the ball over Kabrich to level the game.
“She got dropped in just a little bit out of necessity tonight,” Dennis said of moving Adams to the midfield. “I don’t like to do it and I don’t think she likes to do it, but we had to put her there tonight. She did well, she created that goal and that’s all we can ask for when she’s playing in a different position.”
Cooke came close to tying the game in the second overtime period when Grace Bondurant sent a cross in front of the goal but Cooke’s shot went off the side netting.
Garner had two goals called back due to offside calls including one from Adams late in the first overtime.
“It was back-and-forth; it was completely exhausting,” said a relieved Woznichak. “It took everything we had.”