It's easy to be enthusiastic about the present and future of the Great Crossing girls' soccer while pondering the potential of the offense, with a flood of freshmen and sophomores firing rockets from all over the attacking third.
Any team with legitimate postseason aspirations in the here and now will tell you that defense ultimately steers the ship, however.
Thursday's third consecutive Warhawk shutout — 2-0 over Madison Southern — is a welcome sign that everything in the back half is coming along swimmingly, too.
“I think the biggest thing has been getting organized,” said senior goalkeeper Shelby Smith, a three-year starter. “This year we've played much harder teams who could exploit the weaknesses that we didn't know were there. We've been able to get stronger and build those roles that we didn't have last year. Playing the harder teams made us better, and that's what it takes to be a good team.”
Smith, who surely saw point-blank shots in her sleep as a sophomore starter in year one, enjoyed more time to direct traffic last season and has experienced an even lighter workload in the past week.
She needed only four saves to seal the deal for GC (4-3-1) against Madison Southern (8-2). Seniors Kamri Smith and Layne Ogle and junior Brooklyn Couch have helped maintain the clean sheet over the past 240 minutes of action.
“We have 80 percent of the game. It's really just cleaning up some finishing, and we'll be good,” GC coach Steve Brown said. “The defense has done a good job of communicating well and getting the shutouts. We've been a lot more organized in the back than when we first started.”
Great Crossing buried a goal in each half and had a flurry of chances for more.
Meren Patton delivered a rocket to the upper V from 30 yards out with 13;54 to go until intermission. Seaton Hockensmith provided the insurance, following up a bid by Hayden Patton.
“We had the opportunities. We're creating, which is the hard part,” Brown said. “We've just got to get it in the corner of the net and finish some more. We had two great finishes today, thankfully.”
Claire Cress, a freshman keeper, was primarily responsible for the inability to inflict more damage. She made an astonishing 30 saves for the Eagles.
Her counterpart remembers those days when the Warhawks were just getting started.
“It's a little bit of that (experience). It's a little bit of freshmen coming in that have helped the back line I think too this is our third year together,” Smith said of GC's defensive improvement. “People are starting to know our weaknesses and our strengths, and we're able to cover for each other if we need to.”
Kal Oakes can be reached via email at email@example.com.