SEBRING - Last year pitted a tough Sebring Blue Streak defense against the quickness of the Ridge Community Bolts. The result was a 2-0 win for Ridge. Both coaches remembered that game from last year and replayed it on Thursday night. The end result was the same as the first, a win for Ridge, but this time by only a 1-0 margin.
"I was very happy with the team," said Sebring girlssoccer coach Richie Birdsall. "Ridge came in as a team that has not lost yet, they mercy-ruled a team that is actually in our district. We played well and I like our chances this year."
Birdsall pointed out that this game was about the Blue Streaks defense and the quickness of the Bolts.
For the first 29 minutes of the first half, Ridge's speed appeared to have a slight edge as both teams battled. Ridge was able to press the ball into Sebring territory and had several shot attempts at goal by Ridge's middle forward Mary Garib. Each time the Blue Streaks came out unscathed.
Sebring moved its defensive backs a little closer than usual that threw off the timing of the Ridge offense and caused Garib to be called off-sides several times.
Nine minutes into the game, Garib had a shot that went wide right, a minute later she booted the ball over the goal. Over the next 10 minutes, she would have two shots blocked by Sebring's stellar goalie, Shannon Bloemsma.
Around minute 30 of the first half, Sebring slowly turned the tide and began to put pressure on the Ridge defense, but could not unload on a solid shot attempt.
The Blue Streaks missed a shot on goal with at the 30 minute mark. At the 31 minute mark, Sebring's Eren Kusluk attempted a 15-yard shot from the left side that was saved by the Ridge goalie.
At minute 34, Kusluk passed the ball from the left side to the middle of the field about 20 yards in front of goal. The pass was a bit long and her teammate was unable to reach it before the Ridge goalie snatched it up.
They went into the half scoreless.
Ridge came out strong in the second half as Garib and Kyleigh Grundy had shots blocked by Bloemsma.
At the 10-minute mark in the second half, Garib finally put Ridge on the board. The ball got past the Sebring defense on the right side and Garib drilled a shot past the Sebring defense for a 1-0 lead.
"Shannon is an awesome goalie," said Birdsall. "She is always carrying us back there. On their goal, she (Garib) was able to get enough of it to put a funny spin on it to get it to go in, it happens. I love the effort."
Ridge nearly scored again three minutes later when Bolts forward Morgan Miniacci unloaded a shot from the center of the field about 35 yards out. The ball rocketed through the air, hitting the top of the goal and bouncing away to keep the score 1-0 in Ridge's favor.
Garib nearly scored again for Ridge with an open shot in the middle of the field,
Bloemsma came up about 10 yards from the goal to block the shot. Garib kicked the ball on the ground to the right of Bloemsma, but the change in direction was enough to miss the empty goal about a foot to the left as the ball went out of bounds.
Sebring had its best chance at tying the game late in the second half. A right to left pass led to a shot attempt that sailed over the goal.
The Blue Streaks consistently put pressure on Ridge in the second, but were unable to get a clean shot at goal at the final whistle blew with Ridge winning the match 1-0.
"We are just trying to find ourselves," stated Birdsall. "We've just got to learn how to finish and that's on me. I've got to throw some more finishing drills in there so we can put the ball in the back of the net a little more."
There is no rest for the weary as Sebring traveled to play the Haines City Hornets on Friday night. Their next home match is Tuesday against Okeechobee t Firemen's Field with start times of 6 p.m. for the junior varsity and 7:30 for varsity.