The Braves girls soccer team pulled out a win over Carolina Forest to break .500, but they have much to work on going forward.
Just ask Socastee coach Alkis Leftis.
“We pass the ball way better than other years, we hustle a lot,” Leftis said after his team’s 4-1 win that pushed its record to 3-2. “Right now we’re having these five- and 10-minute periods in each half where we go really dead. The other teams take advantage of this, and in tournament play we pay for it, like we did in the Michael Nash tournament.
“Here, we didn’t pay, so we need to work on playing for 80 minutes. We need to correct that, because our region is strong. In order for us to catch up with the region, we need to play 80 minutes solid.”
The Braves got an early goal in, but not before the departure of Carolina Forest standout midfielder Erica Gazzani, who left with what appeared to be a serious injury.
“Erica Gazzani: She is the top player for Carolina Forest,” Leftis said. “I feel so sorry that she went down; I’ve known her for several years playing soccer and it was really sad to see it. If Erica was in the game, it would have been a different ballgame.
“After she came out, we went flat too. … She came out [and] we didn’t think much about it; we thought that the Panthers would suffer, and somehow they excelled. They took over and they played really hard.”
For roughly 10 minutes Braves stadium went silent as trainers attended to Gazzani, who writhed in pain on the field.
“I think what happened,” Leftis explained, “was that Erica went after the ball against another girl knee-to-knee, the ball was in between but I think her spikes stuck into the grass and her knee just took a bad turn.”
The Socastee offense eventually got going. Senior defender Heather Kyker, senior midfielder Courtney Davis, senior midfielder Isabela Vicentino, and junior forward Danielle Ives all scored goals for the Braves.
“I think we played really well. We played hard, and I told them that’s our plan, we had to give 100 percent,” Leftis said. “For 30, 35 minutes we did really well. We went two up; the last six minutes of the first half we collapsed. Carolina Forest took advantage, and scored a goal which they deserved.
“The second half, Carolina Forest started strong; I told my girls that they needed to get stronger, because Carolina Forest had all the momentum after the goal. It was a little bit tough for us, but after about five, 10 minutes we took over, our midfielders started playing better, we scored the goals we did and we got the win.”
Up 3-1, the Socastee bench provided yet another insurance goal.
“I was pleased that in the last seven minutes I had to use all my reserves I could, and they scored a goal too so for me that was the highlight of the game,” Leftis said.
Though his team had difficult lapses, Leftis was pleased to come out with a victory.
“If this team wins games like they won tonight, I think they’re capable of going very far,” Leftis said. “Our problem right now is that these close games, we normally can’t finish them. We’ve played several other games before like tonight, when we’re up by two and somehow in the last 15 minutes we manage to collapse and lose it.
“So far, we’ve managed to hold our own and win these close games. Tonight, we showed character, and if we can continue to do that I think we’re capable of many many things.”