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North Miami moves closer to TRC title with win over Peru

BY TRENT SCOTT - tscott@perutribune.com

With halftime approaching in Monday night’s TRC girls’ soccer match between North Miami and Peru, a scoreless half looked almost certain to be on the stat sheet.

Yet 20 seconds before the horn sounded, Warrior midfielder Bailey Keim hit a hopeful shot from 40-yards out from the right touchline that went over Tiger goalkeeper Kelsie Kelley and into the net, giving the hosts a 1-0 lead 17 seconds before the break.

Coupled with a goal within the first three minutes of the second half, North Miami kept their hopes of a conference title going with a 4-1 win.

Warrior head coach Jason Faine said the girls, coming off an extended layoff, took some time to get everything synced up to their usual standards.

“Our game plan was to be intense, work on our passing and be first to the ball,” Faine said. “We had a week off to practice and knew from looking at Peru’s scores that they were a much better team.

“We had to work some bugs out throughout the first half and into the second half. You wouldn’t think a week off would make that much difference but it does.”

Peru head coach Kelsey Lilla said the squad played very well in the first half as the girls knew the kind of threat they were facing.

“We changed formation and players around again as we were missing a few girls due to other extracurricular activities,” Lilla said. “We knew some of the key players they have and who to watch for.

“We knew they liked to cross the ball and we tried to stop those from getting in. Our attacks were better but we missed opportunities.”

While the hosts started brightly, Peru was able to settle down quickly and a stalemate soon took hold of the match.

North Miami slowly began to gain field position and put the Tigers under sustained pressure for a few minutes in the middle of the first half.

Keim was first to test Kelley during the stretch, dribbling two-thirds of the pitch before firing towards the top angle of the goal, only for Kelley to parry away.

Kirstin Jacobs came close with a drive that hit the top of the crossbar before sending in a cross from the right to Michaela Stiver though she could not direct her effort on target.

The match then evened out and the visitors would soon have the best effort of the half in their name.

Alexis Beall’s corner was not cleared and eventually found its way to Claire Boyer, whose right-footed shot hit the inside of Madison France’s left-hand post, only to bounce back into the goalmouth and cleared away.

Beall sent Boyer in again two minutes before the end of the half but the sophomore’s shot was wide of goal.

That looked to be the last meaningful attack of the half but Keim would instead deliver a sucker punch, hitting a high, looping ball towards the Peru goal and, much to the surprise of most in attendance, landed just shy of the goal and bounced in.

Faine was happy to see the goal scored but wasn’t surprised by the manner in which it came about.

“It’s nice to get a score anyway it happens,” Faine said. “As far as (Bailey’s) shot, we see that a lot at practice, so it doesn’t surprise me if we get an occasional one like that to go in.”

The goal had a bit of déjà vu about it for Lilla, who said the team had been stung late before when switching off just before the end of a half.

“This isn’t the first time this has happened to us,” Lilla noted. “Whitko scored with 33 seconds left and tonight it was 13 seconds.

“North Miami played until the horn and we didn’t. We were looking to halftime instead of playing the full 40 minutes.”

Peru went on the attack immediately to start the second half with Beall once again driving the action, crossing to Belen Flores from the right, with Flores’ shot moving across goal and collected by France.

North Miami was 2-0 up less than a minute later when Paris Butler collected a rebounded Stiver shot and let loose from just outside the penalty area, hitting just inside Kelley’s left hand post.

Stiver looked to add a third a minute later but Kelley was able to keep the low shot out. The Warrior forward missed another chance three minutes later after Kelley mishandled a Jacobs cross.

Beall had been threatening with her crossing when the Tigers were in attack but ended up cutting the gap herself five minutes after the Warriors took a two-goal lead.

Starr Myers caught the hosts’ rearguard flat-footed with a through ball that Beall latched on to, racing towards goal and burying a shot to France’s right.

Lilla was happy with the response from the girls but wanted more chances taken during the match.

“We want them to keep battling though sometimes they miss the opportunities to battle,” Lilla said. “There are little touches or passes that they can make that sometimes they don’t and we have to take advantage of those opportunities more.”

North Miami responded by kicking up the pressure, though there was little headway until 10 minutes after the Peru goal.

Butler turned provider, crossing from the left to Stiver who arrowed a shot in to restore the two-goal lead for the hosts.

The match was secured a few minutes later when Hanna Hall collected a clearance and, from 30 yards out, beat Kelley with a perfect lob just under the crossbar for a 4-1 lead.

Both teams have two more matches to play before the week finishes.

Peru returns home Wednesday to face Twin Lakes before travelling to Lakeland Christian Academy on Saturday.

Lilla said several of the same problems that had plagued the girls this season were still coming out at the wrong times and the challenge for the team was to fix those issues while also facing the opposition.

“You have to be playing 200 percent all the time,” Lilla said. “That’s become our motto, laying 200 percent, not 180.

“They have to do their part in their position. They have to play as a team at all times and be ready once they’re on the field.”

North Miami hosts Taylor Thursday before traveling to Whitko Saturday with the aim of going into the final TRC match against Rochester undefeated in conference play.

Faine said there were some tough matches during the stretch, including a home match with Oak Hill the following Monday, but added the girls were hungry to earn the elusive TRC title.

“It was a good way to come back after a week off,” Faine said. “We have Taylor on Thursday then conference matches with Whitko Saturday and Rochester next week.

“We want to make sure to be safe but play a good game Thursday and then complete one of our goals of winning this conference.”