RALEIGH — The past two seasons, the Clayton girls soccer team has stepped up its game in the second half of conference play.
Tuesday on the road at Southeast Raleigh, the Comets tallied six goals in the first 15 minutes of the second half against the Bulldogs en route to a 10-1 win that Clayton coach William Williams hopes will set the tone for yet another late season charge toward the postseason.
The Comets were up 4-1 at halftime but came off the field frustrated because of many missed scoring chances in the first half, many of which were missed because of a committed Southeast Raleigh bunker defense and great saves from goalkeeper Jordan Avery.
Williams’ halftime speech then focused around on one concept only: passing.
“I told them at halftime, ‘Guys, you’re not passing the ball. If you can beat one or two and go to the goal, I don’t have a problem with that but you can’t do a little bit of dribbling and shoot from 30 yards out,’” Willams said. “‘I want to see you pass the ball the way you’re supposed to.’”
Clayton heeded its coach’s instructions and used a quick passing game to first draw the Bulldogs defense away from the goal before maneuvering around it to work for better shots.
Senior Marisa Riggins’ third goal of the game came just six minutes into the second half and helped to open up the floodgates.
Goals followed from Everett Biggs (second of the game), Lauren Daniels, Nicole Guerrero, Caitlin Kemp and Kaylee Wilson to end the game with 25 minutes left in regulation due to the nine-goal mercy rule.
“When our defense plays further back, they play much better,” Southeast Raleigh coach Melissa Schultze said. “In the second half, when they started pushing up, Clayton started out running them.”
In the first half, Katherine Artigoa, Arianna Coles, Emma Hanley, Serena Mosley and Erin Ray combined to form a strong layer of defense in front of Avery and blocked several shots from ever reaching their starting keeper.
With 14 minutes left before the first half, a key defensive stand led to a quick counterattack and the Bulldogs’ Katherine White converted the breakaway with ease as she fired a shot past a charging Lauryn Kabrich to draw Southeast Raleigh to within 4-1.
“They played a good game,” Schultze said of her team. “We actually tried different formations today that actually paid off in the long run. I thought they did a great job starting to work together.”
Ellie White accounted for the other goal on the night for Clayton (6-4, 5-2 in the Greater Neuse River 4A).
The Comets find themselves in the mix at the top of the league standings. However, with clubs such as Garner, Harnett Central, Knightdale and league leading West Johnston also in the mix to represent the conference in the state playoffs, a big second half will again be key for Clayton’s playoff hopes.
“They’ve done a great job in the second half the past few years,” Williams said. “Now, they’re in a great position to do something with that. We’ve had young teams the past two years and it takes us a while to get going.
“We’ve got to practice; we’ve got to put together passes. When we do, we’re good.”