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Baltimore County Sports

Tyetianna Cooper-Gray scores lone goal as Loch Raven girls soccer beats Kenwood, 1-0

A unique combination of skills at key positions links the Loch Raven girls soccer team up and down the length of the field.

Monday night in a matchup with Kenwood, the Raiders’ end-to-end connection provided the game’s decisive moment.

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Tyetianna Cooper-Gray’s second-half goal came off assists from forward Maya Gordon and goalkeeper Emmaline Bell as the host Raiders converted a 70-yard quick-strike score to top the visiting Bluebirds, 1-0, in a rain-soaked battle for the top of Baltimore County.

Tyetianna Cooper-Gray, left, is embraced by teammate Maya Gordon after Cooper-Gray's goal in the second half on Monday gave Loch Raven a 1-0 lead over visiting Kenwood. Cooper-Gray's goal held up as the game-winner in the Raiders' 1-0 victory.

Bell’s booming free kick from inside her own half skipped down the wet grass and could be caught only by the fleet-footed Gordon, who sent it to Cooper-Gray.

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“Emmaline had the big kick, Maya had the touch, straight cross into the middle,” Cooper-Gray said. “I tried to touch it, and it was a little loose at first, so I definitely thought I was going to miss, but then I turned and shot.”

Her shot from 12 yards found the back netting, and an hour’s worth of field-length attacks by Loch Raven (8-1-1) was rewarded with a win over a key county rival.

“This was probably one of our biggest competitions, so I feel like now we brushed through it, and we’re good,” Cooper-Gray said.

Loch Raven goalkeeper Emmaline Bell takes a free kick against Kenwood on Monday.

It certainly wasn’t an easy feat, as Kenwood (6-2) brought a toughness and physicality to Monday’s game, lowering shoulders on contested balls and deploying slide tackles as a chilly rain fell steadily throughout the match.

The Bluebirds’ gritty defense was needed, as Loch Raven pressed a high line and hemmed Kenwood into its defensive half of the field over the game’s first 65 minutes. Maddie Martin and Alli Herring sent crisscrossing passes forward to Gordon and Cooper-Gray, and together the Raiders produced relentless attacking pressure.

“We’re blessed to have two really fast and strong forwards that work really well together,” Loch Raven coach Anthony Menegatti said. “They hustle throughout the game.”

Part of the offense came from Bell, who took most of her team’s free kicks, sometimes crossing midfield to do so, effectively shortening the field and boxing the Bluebirds into a defensive posture. Kenwood goalkeeper Olivia Wollschlager fared admirably against the surge, getting her team through halftime without allowing a score and finishing with seven saves, including a diving punch-away of a shot from Martin. Daniela Solorzano broke up countless Loch Raven advances with clean tackles.

But the attacks kept coming, and a momentary pause in the rain saw Bell send her free kick deep to Gordon.

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“It’s really exciting. I like coming up the field and giving people the opportunity to score, and I like being part of that, it feels really good,” Bell said.

Loch Raven's Callie French clears the ball away from Kenwood's Kateryn Osario on Monday.

Gordon blazed down the field in pursuit of Bell’s pass. Can anyone match her speed?

“No,” Gordon said. “I just kick the ball up and start running. That’s what I do, and it works.”

It worked enough to feed Cooper-Gray, who calmly gathered the ball to score, and Menegatti was proud his team kept up the intensity to close out the win.

“Maya was able to get behind the defense using her speed, then played a good ball across, and ‘T’ as we call [Tyetianna] makes a really good composure move in the box and scores the goal, and then we continue to play good defense throughout the game.”

Bell made three saves, including one in the closing moments in which she leaped to catch a hard shot by Kenwood’s Althena Plakas that seemed destined for the goal’s top corner.

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“I think this was really a big win for our team with all the physicality and all the players doing really well,” Bell said. “I think this really proved what we can do and how much further we can go.”

Kenwood coach Christine Horne was proud of her team in a game that was hard-fought on both sides, and the teams have a regular-season rematch towards the end of the season.

“We knew they’d be our toughest competitor this season,” Horne said. “They’re more evenly matched with us. We anticipated that. … My big thing for them is we just need to stay focused at practice [Tuesday]. We’ll be ready to play them again and hopefully have a different score next time.”

Kenwood's Daniela Solorzano clears the ball ahead of Loch Raven's Tyetianna Cooper-Gray on Monday.

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