LEWISBURG — Even though numerous injuries have decimated Lewisburg’s lineup in recent weeks, the Green Dragons have remained in the hunt for a District 4 playoff berth thanks to the play of some of their underclassmen.
Freshman midfielder/forward Caroline Blakeslee is one such player who has heeded the call from coach Terry Gerlinski.
Blakeslee’s header with 12:39 remaining in the first half broke a tied ballgame and Lewisburg held on to beat Central Mountain, 2-1, in a Heartland Athletic Conference-I matchup Tuesday.
A playoff berth looked doubtful for Lewisburg when it began the season 0-4-1, but now the Green Dragons have gone undefeated in their last seven games and are 5-4-3 (3-1-2 in the HAC-I) and they sit No. 8 in the Class 2A standings.
“We just got to keep working at it. It’s tough, we have a lot of injuries, a lot. We have three girls in the concussion protocol, and one just got out today, and we have two (girls) with bad ankles,” said Gerlinski.
“This year (has been) crazy. I lost Kara (Brazier) to an ACL injury. We’ve been battling injuries and plugging people in and saying, ‘Come on, the next one up, let’s play.’ We’re just trying to work on it every day.”
Blakeslee is the team’s leader with seven goals (to go along with a team-high three assists), and her latest score was a thing of beauty.
With the game tied at 1-all, Lewisburg kept knocking on the door for goal No. 2, but the Green Dragons came up empty each time, that is until Blakeslee’s header.
A perfect cross from right to left from Sophie Kilbride, who dished the ball off instead of taking a shot of her own, resulted in Blakeslee scoring the game’s deciding goal by the far post.
“It was a very good cross from Sophie. I was just there at the right time — I made the run in, and thankfully I was there to get the ball in,” said Blakeslee. “It felt really good because it brought our team back up after the goal we let in.”
Lewisburg got on the board first when Mikayla Long, despite not feeling well for the game, scored following a Central Mountain turnover when a Wildcats’ defender couldn’t clear the ball with a header, which Long pounced on for an easy goal.
Moments later however, Central Mountain (2-8, 0-5) tied the game on a goal by Riley Kaluzny, which came off a long cross from Abriell Pinero. Neither the pass nor the shot was very well defended by Lewisburg.
“(Central Mountain’s goal) was a simple mistake, and the girls have to live with their mistakes,” said Gerlinski. “But it’s all about how we move on and how do we react. It’s the name of the game.”
And although the Green Dragons are dealing with their fair share of troubles getting the ball in the net, the hosts had a perfect opportunity to put another goal on the board on a penalty kick by Maddie Still 4 minutes into the second half.
Still’s shot ended up hitting off the right post and it caromed back to Kilbride, who’s ensuing shot on-goal was saved by Wildcats keeper Madison Briggs.
“Maddie is just back after being out 2 1/2 weeks, so she’s a little off. At the beginning of the game you could see it and she was getting frustrated,” said Gerlinski. “But it’s good to have Maddie back. She played a lot more than what I would’ve wanted, but she said she’s fine, she’s fine.”
Despite that PK not going in, Lewisburg, which out-shot Central Mountain 24-2 in the game, didn’t need another score as the Green Dragons’ defense had few problems limiting the Wildcats’ scoring chances.
“I so want them to score and finish, and maybe get over the hump,” said Gerlinski. “It’s good (that we got the win). We are who we are right now, but we getting better with in-game communication and playing together.”
Five games remain for Lewisburg this season, but a big test awaits the team on Thursday. The Green Dragons play Central Columbia at 7 p.m. under the lights at Blue Jays Stadium.
“All the girls know we have Central Columbia next. They are pumped and ready for it,” said Gerlinski. “I’m ready, cautiously. We won’t have two girls ready (to return) until possibly Friday, and another one possibly Monday.
“We’re hobbling, but the girls are going out there and sucking it up and they’re working hard. That’s all I can ask,” added Lewisburg’s coach.
Lewisburg 2, Central Mountain 1at LewisburgScoringFirst half
Lew-Mikayla Long, unassisted, 33:04; CM-Riley Kaluzny, assist Aubriell Pinero, 32:47.
Lew-Caroline Blakeslee, assist Sophie Kilbride, 12:39.
Shots: Lewisburg, 24-2; Corners: Lewisburg, 4-1; Saves: Lewisburg (McKenna Meadows, 1; Izzy Wood, 0), 1; CM (Madison Briggs), 13.