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Atholton girls soccer shuts out Long Reach

Atholton senior Julia Perlin usually doesn’t use her hands in soccer. She is a defender who excels moving up and down the field with the ball at her feet. But with the Raiders starting goalie away and unable to play against Long Reach on Thursday, Atholton coach Stephanie Stoutenborough gave the goalkeeping reigns to a trusted veteran.

Perlin was comfortable in the cage early on as her Raiders defensive line stood strong and didn’t let anything get behind them.

“They did really well,” Perlin said. “We have a lot of really good defenders. They really helped me out and kept me from making some hard saves.”

But in the 38th minute, a tough save was necessary. Long Reach senior Gaby Cabrera connected her head on a volley and sent a strong shot straight towards Perlin.

And in that situation, Perlin came through, blocking the shot with no hesitation and diving on the ground to secure the ball. It served as one of the few scoring opportunities Long Reach created in a 2-0 Atholton victory on Thursday night.

“I think the weather had a little bit to do with it as well as just not communicating,” Long Reach head coach Kudzai Dzimiri said. “We’re typically a team that thrives in our ability to possess the ball, go forward with the ball and attack with numbers, but today just wasn’t our day.”

The teams were knotted at zero until the 50th minute when Atholton finally broke through thanks to Lilly Decellas, who began the scoring sequence by overtaking possession in Lightning territory and winning a corner kick. On the ensuing cross from sophomore Ally Clearfield, Decellas sent a a quick shot past Lightning keeper Riley Holmes to put the Raiders ahead.

“I think they were scared to come to practice tomorrow if we didn’t score off one [corner] since we missed a couple in the first half,” Stoutenborough said. “I told them at half that anything can happen especially with Long Reach. Like I said, we can’t sleep on them. We’ve got to come out and get an early goal and keep pressing.”

The Raiders did not let up. In the 70th minute, an Atholton cross ended up at the feet of freshman Taylor Lau, who sent a rocket to the upper-right portion of the goal to extend the Raiders’ advantage to 2-0.

“It was as simple as not marking up, not following our man into the box,” Dzimiri said. “It’s a problem we’ve typically had in our past.”

Atholton’s offense produced 17 shots and forced Holmes to make five saves. Meanwhile, Perlin finished the game with three stops en route to earning her first win as a starting goalie.

“It’s a big game,” Perlin said. “I mean Long Reach always comes out really hard, they’re really aggressive so I think this is a really good win for us.”

Atholton (3-1 county, 2-1 overall) — 2, Long Reach (3-2, 3-2) — 0

Goals: A — Lilly Decellas, Taylor Lau.

Assists: A — Ally Clearfield.

Saves: A — Julia Perlin 3, LR — Riley Holmes 5.

Halftime: 0-0

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