By JOSH WALFISH / Daily News-Record
PENN LAIRD – It looked like Spotswood finally caught a break late Tuesday in the Class 3 Region C girls soccer semifinal.
Rosie Cedeno had worked her way behind the Monticello defense and had a clear path to goal – until she didn’t. The senior forward was chased down from behind, forcing her to alter her path away from goal as a scoring opportunity went to waste.
It was that type of night for the Trailblazers, who could never string together passes in the danger area against the Mustangs. It resulted in a 2-0 loss for top-seeded Spotswood against No. 5 Monticello in Penn Laird as the Blazers fell at their last hurdle to the state tournament. The Mustangs will now face Western Albemarle in the region title match.
“We just needed that last step is what we were missing,” Spotswood coach Ryne Powell said. “Everything getting there was fine, but just that last initial step to get it to net is what we lacked. … I didn’t see an instant when we gave up. I didn’t see an instant when we stopped going for balls or stopped trying to make opportunities. That’s the team right there, they didn’t quit the whole season.”
After falling behind less than 12 minutes into the game, the Trailblazers (16-3) had their fair share of possession, they simply did little to test Camille Blaine in the Monticello net. Those final passes just eluded the feet of Spotswood’s players in a multitude of fashions from being kicked too hard, too soft or at the wrong angle.
The most dangerous opportunities Spotswood had all game came due to individuals winning one-on-one battles. Most of those were won by Cedeno, the anchor of the Trailblazers attack in the middle of the field. She dribbled her way into open space in the first half, but she partially whiffed on her shot, which sputtered weakly into Blaine’s hands. In the second half, she again maneuvered her way into a good scoring position, but this time her shot was blocked before it even reached Blaine.
Senior Blair McGloon said Spotswood has had to adjust in the past week to not having the speedy Kameron Melendez on the field, which she said explained some of the missed connections in the attacking third.
“Losing Kam was one of the biggest hardships we faced throughout the ending of our season,” McGloon said. “That speed up top is really difficult to lose, so not having that other forward, it was hard to connect on those passes.”
The comeback attempt was also hindered by the warm weather that seemed to affect the Trailblazers more than it did the Mustangs (11-6). Spotswood was a step slow most of the game, allowing Monticello to be first to many of the loose balls after a change in possession.
McGloon admitted it was hard for SHS to recover after Monday’s 5-2 win over Fort Defiance and then rediscover their stamina in the heat.
“After coming off a game yesterday and then playing at 5:30 today in this heat, yeah, it was hard to sustain that energy,” McGloon said.
Monticello coach Thomas Warren said he wanted to use Spotswood’s hard-working persona against it and to force the Trailblazers to run all over the field in pursuit of the ball early. The strategy paid dividends in the latter parts of the game as Spotswood tired and Monticello was able to ping the ball around the field to run time off the clock.
“Spotswood runs really hard, they’re always willing to try really hard, so they’re just chasing the ball all over the place,” Warren said. “I told my girls if they pass smart and pass quickly, they’re going to run and run and run, and unfortunately for them, they’re going to run out. You saw in the last 13 minutes we were able to possess just by passing around and they really had gassed themselves.”
Monticello dented the scoreboard early when a clearance fell to Mackenzie Scheel 30 yards away from the goal. The Mustangs freshman collected herself and unleashed a laser that rose above Spotswood goalkeeper Jennifer Leal-Cruz into the far upper corner.
There were a few more chances for the Mustangs to add to their lead before halftime, but junior Olivia Paladino cleaned up those opportunities before Monticello could pounce. The one mistake Paladino wasn’t able to clean up was a miscommunication four minutes into the second half that put the defender in a foot race with Kayla Burton. The Monticello forward won that battle and then easily slotted the ball past Leal-Cruz to provide the final margin.
“Without that miscommunication or have that great shot from the outside, it’s a 0-0 game,” Powell said. “I don’t see it as they lost anything. I see it as the girls kept pace the whole game and I think the girls did great.”