LAURINBURG — The Purnell Swett girls soccer team entered Wednesday’s matchup against Scotland still searching for that elusive first Southeastern Conference victory.
But make no mistake, the Rams were better than their record indicated. In April, their three losses have been by a combined five goals which includes an overtime loss to Hoke. According to Purnell Swett head Alaric Strickland, his team just needed to finish strong during crunch time.
And the Rams did just that in their rematch with the host Scots, scoring three unanswered goals to pull away for a 5-2 victory.
“It’s not been going our way but we’ve been competitive and that’s the one good thing that’s been great about it,” Strickland said after the win.
“We weren’t finishing, but tonight we finished goals. We scored. That was the thing that was different from the other games before. We were able to put the ball into the back of the net.”
Purnell Swett (7-6-1, 1-5) notched its first win since March 24, and the Rams handed Scotland (3-11, 1-5) its third straight loss. The visitors from Pembroke also avenged a 3-2 defeat to the Scots on March 16.
Though the Rams won by a comfortable margin, the scoreboard did not reflect the competitiveness of the contest. The two teams traded scores during the early going, and Maddison Oxendine got Purnell Swett started with a goal less than a minute in.
Scotland answered right back a few minutes later when Beatrice Eddy found the back of the net, then Paige Sweeney put the Rams back on top a few moments later.
The Scots again knotted the score when Breonne Johnson tacked on a goal. But Purnell Swett answered with the final goal of the half when Sweeney added her second to give the Rams a 3-2 halftime advantage.
Scotland head coach Abbi Giaier said her team worked hard for their first-half goals, but they couldn’t build on that offensive output during the final 40 minutes.
“Those two goals that we did score — I’m very proud of the girls, they did not stop, they did not give up,” Giaier said. “If we had kept up that momentum and been able to get a few more in like that, it would have been more encouraging.”
The Rams, however, had no such issues.
Brooke Huggins beat goalkeeper Anna Griswold for a goal after outrunning the Scotland back line to double Purnell Swett’s lead, then Haleigh Jones got in on the scoring act at the 18:36-mark to help the Rams all but secure its first SEC win.
Giaier said Purnell Swett made her team pay when they made mistakes, especially on defense.
“Every time we broke down they had an opportunity,” Giaier said. “Anna (Griswold), again, one of her better games. She definitely saved us quite a few times. They were two steps ahead of us all night … .
“Unfortunately when we have breakdowns in the back, because that is kind of somewhere that we as a team look to as one of our more solid areas, when they breakdowns I think we start to get a little freaked out.”
For Purnell Swett, it was a cathartic win in a sense that Strickland’s squad was finally rewarded for their recent stellar play.
“I’ve tried to have them keep their heads high knowing, hey, sometimes it doesn’t work for you but your time will come. And tonight, thankfully, we played well,” Strickland said.
Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.