Junior Gracie Leith provided the heroics for Sacred Heart Wednesday night, scoring in the 77th minute of a scoreless match to lead the Valkyries past Manual 1-0.
Not a bad way to score your first varsity goal.
“It was really exciting,” said Leith. “I saw the ball go over the defender’s head so I felt like it was a good opportunity to go in there and score.”
“She just has the grit and stuck with it and was able to capitalize on that opportunity,” said Sacred Heart head coach Libbey Smith.
“It was a good game and a good battle. It always is when we play each other. Tonight was a regional match, so there’s always that amped-up factor. It was a good, tough game.”
The Valkyries took 18 shots compared to Manual’s six, but both teams had good scoring chances throughout the match and could not cash in.
“The key is you have to keep at it,” said Smith. “We try to always communicate positivity when you miss a shot. You have to take chances. I know they get frustrated so I always try to be positive about it so that it balances out a little bit.”
“You just have to stay calm, but it’s tough because we missed a lot of shots and several hit the post,” said Leith. “We wanted to score, and we wanted to win. I knew we had it in us. I just wanted to keep working. It was tiring, but I knew how to keep going because we could do it.”
Manual has now lost nine straight matches against Sacred Heart. The Crimsons’ last win over the Valkyries came in 2010.
“Both teams have quality sides,” said Manual head coach Sheri Kiser. “They capitalized on their opportunity, and we didn’t. I thought it was a good effort from both teams. Both teams defended very well. It was just a matter of they had one better opportunity than we did.
“When you play quality teams, you don’t have many opportunities. You may have two or three a game. And if you don’t take advantage of yours, they will. And that’s what happened.”
There is still a long way to go before the postseason, but both coaches believe a hotly-contested match like this one will benefit their team when the stakes are much higher.
“You want to face adversity or challenges early because that’s how you figure out who’s good where and who’s good in a pickle,” said Smith. “We like the challenge. That’s what it’s about.”
“We know there’s a good chance we’ll see them again, so I think it’s a good game for both sides,” said Kiser. “They saw us, we saw them. It’s good preparation. It’s frustrating to lose, but we’ll take away some positive things from this game, and we’ll move forward.”
Both Sacred Heart (6-1) and Manual (2-2) return to action on Thursday. The Valkyries host Seneca while the Crimsons visit Clark County.