By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The last 10 minutes of the Millington vs. Central soccer season opener had plenty of thrills.
The members of the crowd gathered Aug. 19 at Centennial Park were on the edge of their seats when Millington Lady Trojan Iris Reyes netted a goal to give her team a 1-0 lead.
Then Millington fans had to hold their breath in the final moments as the Lady Warriors took three shots on goal including a breakaway. Lady Trojan senior goalie Emily Stewart faced a one-on-one moment with a Central striker.
Stewart came up in the box to make a play on the ball. As she slid across the Centennial grass, the Lady Warrior player took her shot.
“I felt amazed, I was so happy when I had that ball underneath me,” Stewart said. “It was a relief.”
Stewart made the save and protected Millington’s narrow advantage. Minutes later the official blew his whistle three times symbolizing the end of the game and the Lady Trojans started the 2013 season 1-0.
“It’s a good start to the season,” Reyes said. “I’m excited for this season.”
The Lady Trojans entered the season with nine seniors including Reyes and Stewart. The rest of Head Coach Larry Dagen’s roster features 13 underclassmen.
After the graduation of last season’s leading scorer Katlyn Dupree, Dagen and the girls had the challenge of replacing 31 goals. In the first 40 minutes against Central several Millington players showed they have the potential to be goal scorers.
The Lady Trojans had more than a dozen shots on goal forcing the Lady Warrior goalie to make seven saves. Millington strikers like Reyes, Asha Burks, Devin McSwain and Taylor Dawn were just some to take an attempt on goal.
Despite solid passing and possessing the ball, the Lady Trojans were in a scoreless tie at halftime.
In the second half, Central kept pace with Millington in time of possession and shots on goal.
The Lady Trojans had a close call midway through the second half with a shot just going over the net.
Reyes took advantage of Millington next chance to score a goal. In the final minutes the senior midfielder connected on a free kick to give Millington a 1-0 lead.
“It felt great because it was last minute, last quarter of the game,” she said. “It wasn’t all me. It was because of my team. They were doing great for the first game. I’m so proud of them. We’ve come a long way since the first practice.”
Then it was up to Stewart and defenders like Chabeli Brooks to make that lead stand to the final whistle.
The Lady Warriors were on the attack getting three shots on goal late.
“That was pretty challenging,” Stewart said. “But that’s just a normal game for me.”
And living up to her reputation as one of the most athletic goalies in District 14-3A, Stewart made the stops including her sliding save.
Although the duo of Stewart and Reyes were happy to be 1-0 after the Central game, the seniors realize there is room for improvement.
“We have to work harder at practice and stop lagging around in the game,” Reyes acknowledged. “We have a pretty young team. So we’ll get things into place. This was only the first game, so we’ll get better throughout the season.”