Queen Anne’s 2 — J.M. Bennett 0
SALISBURY — Mike Kern learned what his offense can do against an underdog Monday.
Wednesday he learned what his defense can do against a heavyweight.
Stopper Jurnee Wilson shadowed James M. Bennett standout Olivia Owens, while sweeper Kassidy Robinson and a heady, quick defensive cast handled everything that came their way on a warm, sunny afternoon, as the Lions blanked the defending Bayside Conference champion Clippers, 2-0, at the Shipyard.
“This is probably one of the best teams we play,” Wilson said of the Clippers. “And for us to do this good I was really proud of us. We’ll only get better from here.”
That would be just fine with Kern, the Lions head coach, who watched his team rout Wicomico, 13-0, Monday, then deliver a superb defensive performance against a Bennett team it could potentially face in this year’s conference final and 2A East Region playoffs.
“Great win,” said Kern, his team now 2-0. “(Bennett head coach) Ed O’Leary always puts a good team on the field. They play hard. Bennett is a quality team.”
With a quality player in Owens, who scored the winning goal in last year’s Bayside Conference championship against Kent Island, and netted a hat trick in a 3-0 season-opening victory over Easton on Monday.
“Olivia Owens is such a phenomenal player,” Kern said of Bennett’s senior striker. “In my opinion, probably the best player in the South this year. And we put Jurnee on her and Jurnee did a fabulous job on her. Just kind of really frustrated her, prevented her from doing her thing; kind of shadowed her the whole time.”
While Wilson was blanketing Owens, Robinson, her sister Kaitlyn Robinson, Abbi Barnett and Kylie Charles intercepted passes, short-circuited build-ups and breakaway bids, and executed an offsides trap that caught Bennett offsides close to 10 times.
“They were looking for the fast breaks and we kept pulling up and our offsides trap worked really well today,” Kern said. “And even when they did stay onsides we were able to get in position and knock them off the ball.
“We stayed up on them, and we kept pulling up,” Kern said of his defense. “Kassidy controls that back there and she does a great job. Everyone stays in front of her and if she sees we can pull them off, she pulls up and does a great job. She’s just a smart soccer player; good knowledge of the game.”
Bennett (1-1) had the better scoring opportunities in the first half. With 16 minutes left, Owens drove a shot off the crossbar. Six minutes later she broke free for a deep run down left wing, but was beaten to the ball by Queen Anne’s keeper Bre Athey. The Clippers had another scoring chance four minutes before intermission, firing a shot from right wing that Athey dropped to her knees to stop at the left post.
Queen Anne’s started possessing the ball more in the second half, and put together its best scoring chance five minutes in, when Riley Napier steered a cross to Ryleigh Jordan, whose shot from in front of the net was stopped by Bennett keeper Caroline Scott.
The Lions continued their possession game, and the Clippers continued getting called offsides as the second half reached its midway point. Then with 15:42 remaining, Queen Anne’s Shyanne Seymour fed Abby Blanchard, who chipped a floater from right wing that eluded the leaping Scott and settled into the left corner for a 1-0 Lions lead.
“The first one, I didn’t even know it went in,” Blanchard said. “I was surprised. And then my second one was just a through ball, and I just touched it to the goal.”
That second one came just 56 seconds after the first, with Blanchard receiving a through ball from Jordan and striking a low, hard shot into the bottom left corner.
“You finish those shots, it’s important,” Kern said. “Abby’s that kind of a player. She’s a solid player and she puts them away when the game is on the line. She finishes, and finishers are great.”
Owens made a final bid late to avoid the shutout, with a late run down right wing. But Wilson rushed in, stepped in front of her to take the ball, before Owens slid in an attempt to kick at the ball. Athey rushed over and collected the loose ball, ending the threat before booting the ball to midfield.
“We did really well,” Wilson said of the defense. “I didn’t think we were going to be able to hold this team offsides, but we did a few times. And I was playing man on one girl (Owens) and my defense really helped me out with doubling her. We held our shape pretty well.”
O’Leary thought his team played well, with the exception of the two goals in 56 seconds scoring punch.
“Tough game,” O’Leary said. “Two minutes span. Two goals. We lose. They win. We here they’re the best team in the Bayside this year and we hung with them except for those two minutes so we’ve no complaints. We learn from it and get on with it and try to get better, keep improving as the season goes on, and hopefully see them again in the Bayside Conference (final).”