Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Rays Run Into Rough Stretch


MIA goal keeper Kirra Polley made close to two dozen saves. This one came in the first half. Photos by Barry Gwinn

MIA goal keeper Kirra Polley made close to two dozen saves. This one came in the first half. Photos by Barry Gwinn

After going undefeated in their first week of play, the Marco Island Academy Rays lost a couple of heartbreakers to Canterbury, and endured a pummeling, punctured by injuries, to a red hot Evangelical Christian team. During those three games, the Rays managed only one goal against the cloying defenses of their opponents. “Our shots and opportunities were there in all three games,” said Coach Jim Watt, “They were just not going in.”

On November 27, in a 1-2 loss at Canterbury, the Rays discovered that they can play with anyone, said Coach Watt. Last year they had been mercied (games called when score reaches 8-0) twice, by this talented team. The first half was a draw with all the scoring in the second. Ellie Ball, assisted by Morgan Jones, had the only goal for the Rays. “This was the hardest fought game of our season,” said Watt, “I wish the outcome was different because our girls deserved this game.”

A spirited MIA attack ends in a desperate struggle in front of Canterbury’s goal.

A spirited MIA attack ends in a desperate struggle in front of Canterbury’s goal.

On December 1, at another away game, the Rays lost 0-6 to a very good Evangelical Christian team. Considering that three starters were unavailable for this game and that two of the team’s scorers, Savannah Heilmer (cramping) and Hailey Cartwright (painful injury) had to be taken out in the second half because of injuries, the result was not surprising. In the second half, the Rays sometimes found themselves with only ten girls on the field. “ECS was a tough loss,” said Coach Watt, “They are a good team and just wore us out in the second half.”

On December 4, Canterbury came to Winterberry Park for a rematch. Coach Watt thought MIA would win this one. It could have been the defining game for the Rays, and in many ways it was. It was definitely one of the most entertaining high school games I have ever seen. Although a disappointing 0-3 loss, the Rays consistently gave as good as they got in this one. It was high school soccer at its best – the way the game should be played. Through a scoreless first half the slick passing Cougars rained shots on the Rays’ goalkeeper, Kirra Polley. Polley stopped everything they threw at her. The first half was largely the Kirra Polley show. The second half belonged to Jasmine Acosta, the 15-year-old sister of 24-year-old Cougars head coach, Paolo Acosta. In a tenminute stretch, Jasmine Acosta, in a series of furious and dazzling attacks, shredded the Rays defense with three goals. And then it was over. Except for those three attacks, the Rays stood, shoulder to shoulder against what may be the best team in the league.

Coach Watt already has them looking toward the next game (at Community School on December 12).

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