These two teams play each other tough every year and Friday’s match was no exception. Spalding had won the last two matches against ELHS, including a 1-0 victory at ELHS last season which clinched the Region 4-AAA title for the Lady Jags.
In a battle for first place in the 2012 region standings, the visiting Lady Golden Eagles came out ready to roll Friday, making excellent passes and getting to many of the balls a bit faster than No. 9 state-ranked Spalding. The Lady Jags (6-3 overall, 3-1 region) did get a few shots on goal early, but ELHS (7-3, 4-0) played great defense and halted every effort by the Lady Jags to score.
Eagle’s Landing dented the scoreboard first at the 20:33 mark of the first half on a breakaway goal by Laura Wolfenden and looked to get even more goals, but one EL shot went over the net and Spalding keeper Madison Stansell saved the next shot.
The Lady Jags had a shot at the 11:00 mark as Myra Fisher made a nice pass to Reece McIver, who looked to have a great path to the EL net, but the referee called McIver offsides, ending the threat. ELHS took advantage of the Spalding mistake two minutes later as Maggie McMenimen hit a nice shot past Stansell for the 2-0 lead. ELHS’ Aneisia Johnwell then sank a floating shot over Stansell’s head into the back of the net at the 7:36 mark and that shot gave the Lady Golden Eagles the 3-0 lead.
Once again, the Lady Jags had shots to score in the waning minutes of the first half. McIver made a great pass to Madison Stewart, who quickly took the shot but it went wide of the net at the 3:00 mark. One minute later, Spalding's Olivia O’Brien passed to Kristen Argila who had a chance to score, but Argila mistimed her jump and the ball went past her, ending the threat. The score stayed 3-0 EL at the half.
The Lady Jags came out aggressive at the start of the second half, showing why they were the defending Region 4-AAA champions. After a Spalding player was fouled five minutes into the half, Fisher took the ensuing penalty kick and boomed a shot past EL keeper Samantha Conley to cut the EL lead to 3-1.
Spalding stayed in EL territory in the second half and took several shots. The team’s aggressiveness paid off as Stewart hit a wicked shot off an EL player and into the net to trim the EL lead to 3-2 at the 16:39 mark.
Just when Spalding looked to seize the momentum and tie the match, EL buckled down and got back into Spalding territory, getting three shots on goal -- one shot hit the top of the crossbar and Stansell saved the second shot. As EL got into the Spalding box for its third shot, Stansell left the net to deflect a pass but the ball got past her and no one on Spalding covered McMenimen, who had an easy shot to put EL up for good at 4-2 at the 9:58 mark.
Four minutes later, EL’s Sam Echevarria added salt to the wound with another goal to make the score 5-2, clinching first place in the region for the visitors. O’Brien scored Spalding’s final goal at the 5:20 mark for the 5-3 final score.
EL coach Gail Ballard was happy to get the win and insisted her team wasn’t out for revenge for the 2011 loss.
“We were trying to get the win, especially since both teams are so good. We are peaking now and that’s a good thing,” Ballard said. “I have so much respect for [coach] Wayne Gardner and his Spalding team. They made adjustments after halftime and had us on the ropes. I’m glad we came out with the win.”