BENSON — The temperatures may have been near freezing Wednesday night, but it didn’t take Clayton’s girls soccer team long to warm up. However, all that early spark did was fire up West Johnston’s offense, as the Wildcats took control for a 6-1 victory in a Greater Neuse River 4A Conference match.
Fighting off the early chill, the Comets capitalized on a counter attack when Everett Biggs won the ball at midfield and sent a pass to Logan Daniel on the left side of the field. Daniel chipped a through ball to Claudia Woznichak, who carried it up the field and deposited it into the net past Wildcats keeper Hannah Stephenson.
The goal was the first by a Wildcats opponent in four matches, dating back to a first half goal by Fuquay-Varina in a 5-1 West Johnston victory.
It would also be the wake up call, or rather, the un-thawing the Wildcats needed, as they responded only 2 1/2 minutes later to score the equalizer.
Alaina Custer provided that score on the first corner kick of the match by the Wildcats. Madison Covey served that ball into upper left corner of the box, where Custer settled the ball before punching it past Comets goalkeeper Lauryn Kabrich.
Not only did the Wildcats level the score, they took control of the contest, keeping the ball on Clayton’s end of the field for a majority of the first half before taking the lead for good with 12:30 left in the period. That goal came on a cross from Custer to the left side of the box, which Mallory Boston finished.
“We started slow today,” said Wildcats coach Reid Byrd, who watched the Wildcats improve to 9-0-1 overall and 4-0-1 in the Greater Neuse. “We’ve had a couple of matches where we’ve just seemed kind of out of sync, but after we woke up tonight, the girls started getting together and played real well, passing the ball and getting shots on goal.”
The Wildcats got together in the second half, putting the match away with a pair of goals 20 seconds apart and a final score three minutes after that.
West pushed their lead to 4-1 when Kristen Power took a cross in the box, executed a 180-degree turn and blasted the ball into the middle of the net. Twenty seconds later, Robin Pollard made a run up the left side of the field, turned in front of the goal and finished for a 5-1 advantage.
Becky Meshaw, who had upped the Wildcats lead to 3-1 15 minutes into the second half, wrapped up scoring for the night, heading in a direct kick with 10:41 to play.
Clayton attempted to play on even terms, and held its own in the first half, only to see the Wildcats press the issue, generating seven corners. West seemed to be a step ahead of the Comets throughout the match, finishing with an 11-1 advantage in corners and 23-8 in shots on goal.
Stephenson recorded six saves, while Clayton’s Kabrich had four stops and Logan Haage added three in the second half.
Byrd said it seemed that Clayton, which dipped to 5-3 overall and 4-2 in the Greater Neuse, contributed to its own demise
“I think as the game went on,” Byrd said, “They (Comets) started getting out of sort. … and began getting out of their game plan.
“It was like they were getting frustrated with each other, and we took advantage of that.”