On Tuesday evening, a short-staffed Eastbrook Panthers’ squad faced one of their toughest challenges of the season in unbeaten Yorktown, who came into the evening with a 5-0-1 record.
However, despite lacking full strength, the Panthers played excellent soccer all evening on both ends of the pitch, playing the Tigers to a 2-2 tie.
In total, seven Lady Panthers missed Tuesday’s game due to COVID-19 guidelines. None of them had contracted the virus, according to Eastbrook Head Coach Jamie Hallis, but contact tracing revealed that they had been in close proximity with another student who tested positive, forcing them to quarantine.
“We’ve got seven players quarantining – four of those would probably be starters,” Eastbrook Head Coach Jamie Hallis said. “So, we played this game with a lot of girls who haven’t had a ton of minutes. I was so pleased with all of them.”
Eastbrook’s defenders, despite being pressured much of the contest by Yorktown’s front line, held their ground and put together a stellar effort. Center back Rachel Manning made several key stops and cleared the ball efficiently, while senior goalkeeper Gabby Scott played a masterful game in net, making 19 saves in the face of an unrelenting Yorktown attack.
Eastbrook played more of a defensive formation, trying to keep the Yorktown forwards and midfielders in front of them, and for the most part, it was effective. While the Tigers recorded 22 shots in the contest, many went wide or were off target due to the Panthers’ aggressive defensive play.
“They are a fantastic team, and obviously were on our end for a chunk of the game,” Hallis said. “I wasn’t sure how our defense would hold up, but they did really well.”
The two teams went back and forth for most of the first half, but with 10:31 to play, the Panthers broke the scoreless tie. Naomi Diller, who made her presence felt on both offense and defense roaming the midfield, made a perfect pass to Sarah Foulk, who weaved through several Yorktown defenders and deposited her 23rd goal of the season to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead.
Yorktown outshot Eastbrook 10-2 after the first 40 minutes of play, but Scott was the difference, making six saves.
Armed with the lead, the Panthers made more of an offensive push early in the second half but failed to add on to their lead in the opening 20 minutes.
After that, Yorktown began to push once again, and a hand ball in the box with 23:30 led to a penalty kick. Tiger senior Elizabeth Reece capitalized on the opportunity, tying the contest at 1-1.
With just 14 minutes to go, freshman defender Estah McKim launched a pass that landed perfectly in front of Foulk, who again weaved her way through the Yorktown defense and found twine to help the Panthers regain the lead.
However, the advantage would not last long, as Reece scored her second of the evening off a rebound, tying the contest at 2-2 with 12:18 remaining. The Panthers created several strong offensive chances in the final 10 minutes of the contest, but were unable to score again, securing the draw.
While a tie is not as desirable as a win, Eastbrook’s performance against Yorktown was a positive one, as it gave players like McKim, fellow freshman Emmerson Chellis and sophomores Morgan Hale and Eden Brown a chance at an extended role. They made the most of their opportunity, showing grit, heart, and skill against a formidable foe.
Hallis could not have been more thrilled with their, and her entire team’s, performance.
“It’s the curse of COVID but also the blessing of COVID – I don’t think we’ve started the same 11 girls so far in any of our games,” Hallis said. “I feel like it has given more of our girls time on the field, and they have really stepped up on the field.”