TAZEWELL, Tenn. — Claiborne senior forward Ashley Woodward scored four goals and assisted on another to lead the Lady Bulldogs to a 5-2 win over Middlesboro in a very physical soccer match on Thursday.
“It was a physical game and it got more physical than what I like. It was rough on both sides and I don’t like to see that,” Claiborne coach Shawn Peters said. “It was a hard-fought game. We made a couple of mistakes that they took advantage of and had me a little scared for a while. But the girls came together and pulled it out.”
The Lady Bulldogs (3-1) were the aggressors early on and after a couple of missed opportunities, Woodward found senior Ashley Arnwine in the center of the box for a goal and a 1-0 lead about five minutes in.
Lady Jacket sophomore keeper Jade Robertson turned away five more shots over the next ten minutes of game action but Woodward was there to knock in a rebound from close range to stretch the Lady Bulldog lead to 2-0.
With Claiborne pressing their attack, the Lady Jackets were caught a bit off guard with the Lady Bulldog defenders pressing up to midfield and were called offsides on three early scoring chances.
They soon adjusted to the physical play and tactics and started to mount their own attack. After shots by Lindsey Johnson and Sarah Slusher were turned away by Claiborne keeper Kaylee Robbins, the Lady Bulldogs were called for a handball in the box during a scramble for a loose ball.
Slusher knocked in the penalty kick to get Middlesboro on the board at about the 28 minute mark. Both keepers made some nice saves to keep the score 2-1 until late in the half.
Middlesboro’s Katrina Turner drew a foul about 25 yards out and Slusher’s direct kick got over Robbins and Olivia Carnes was there in the far side of the goal in tip it in to the tie the match at around the 41 minute mark.
“I’m very proud of my girls. One of the things we’ve worked on is becoming more physical — and I mean clean physical and playing the game right — I think we did that tonight,” Lady Jacket coach Jeff Sorke said.
Woodward scored again about three minutes into stoppage time and Claiborne took a 3-2 lead into the half.
There were a couple of other hard tackles that Sorke felt should have been fouls or that even warranted cards but went uncalled.
“I do feel a little bit shorted. They had two players that really should have been out of the game. When you tackle a person after the ball is gone and completely take them out or when you take someone out from behind, either one of those could have been a red card,” Sorke said. “When you turn around and shove the other team on a dead ball that’s a red card everywhere I’ve played. But I give my girls a lot of credit for fighting and coming back.”
Woodward found the back of the net from 24 yards out early in the second half and got loose on a breakaway and scored again close to the midway point of the second half to make it 5-2.
“She was a starter as a freshman and she’s been our leading scorer for the last four years. I don’t even want to think about her graduating,” Peters said. “She’s the backbone of the team.”
Johnson appeared to score for Middlesboro on their ensuing possession but her shot was waved off late on a questionable offsides call.
Robertson finished with 17 saves in the match while Robbins handled eight shots on goal from the Lady Jackets.
Middlesboro (1-3) returns to action on Tuesday when they host Corbin.