Defense dominates as rivalry play to scoreless tie

About the only thing decided when the Columbus North and Columbus East girls soccer teams got together Saturday night at the Wigh Soccer Complex was that both squads are defensively sound.

The 0-0 tie didn’t exactly have the thrills and chills the fans have come to expect when the two exceptional programs meet, but a few factors might have kept the offenses from showing any cohesiveness.

Besides the aforementioned solid defenses, each led by a pair of terrific goalkeepers, a light rain had fallen just prior to the game. A heaping helping of slip-and-slide was on display throughout.

As both head coaches know, these two teams are likely to meet down the road in the sectionals, so perhaps that added to the close-to-the-vest game plans.

And it wasn’t as if the contest didn’t offer a few thrilling plays to get the students from the two schools up from the collection of couches and recliners that customarily line the sideline.

Junior midfielder Natalie Teo was responsible for North’s best two scoring chances and much of that excitement. Teo set a great example for her teammates when her plain hard work led to a pair of free kicks, each about 25 yards away from the goal in the dead center of the field.

Neither time was Teo making a big move on East keeper Bryn Eudy but instead she was playing some nifty keep-away that eventually drew contact from the Olympians’ defense.

Now it wasn’t like Teo was getting mauled or anything, but it was enough that she earned the call, and a scoring opportunity.

The first free kick came about midway through the opening half and Teo decided to go up and over the East defenders who bunched in front of Eudy. Her boot appeared to be perfect, arching at the perfect angle to catch the very top of the right side of the net.

Eudy, though, had other ideas. She timed her leap perfectly and, together with her jump and every inch of her body, managed to get her finger tips on the ball.

That touch wasn’t so direct to knock the ball far to one side or the other, but instead was a love tap that caused the ball to plop down right in front of the net.

With Eudy in a heap after her dynamic save, the ball was sitting about a foot from being a goal. East’s defense managed to clear the ball away and Olympians coach Ilya Schwartzman could breathe a sigh of relief.

North really had the better of play early in the game, keeping the ball in East’s end without really threatening to score.

Eventually, though, East’s offense began to loosen up.

East’s Addy Galarno put a shot on goal that North keeper Charlotte Verbanic had to stop and then the Olympians came right back with one of their best scoring chances of the game.

Olympians’ junior Kayla Gastineau ripped a shot just wide of the goal toward the end of the first half.

If Eudy turned in the save of the first half, Verbanic captured the second half’s best stop. East’s Elisa Watkins fired a point-blank shot that Verbanic smothered just after the teams returned for the second half.

East seemed to be more offensively aggressive to start the second half, but North’s defense adjusted and pretty much negated that burst of early energy.

But before the game returned to its keep-away form, East did take a couple more shots at Verbanic. One shot was followed by a collision with Verbanic and an East player that left the North keeper flat on her back for several minutes while she attempted to regain her wind.

When action resumed, Watkins again tested her with a hard shot, but she was up to the task.

With 13:15 remaining in the game, Teo again used some fancy footwork to force East’s defense to knock her over and again she was awarded a free kick. This time, however, the shot attempt sailed high over East’s goal.

East is now 1-0-2 on the season while North is 1-1-2.