Frustrated by her play in the first half against defending state girls’ soccer champion South Oldham, Manual’s Isabella Zamborini went up to coach Rick Underwood during the second half and asked what she could do to get in the game.
“He said, ‘just go in there and hustle and play quicker,’ so that’s what I did, and it worked,” Zamborini, a sophomore, recalled.
It worked out very well for the Crimson.
Zamborini’s goal — which she scored shortly after coming onto the field — in the 62nd minute lifted Manual to a 1-0 win over the Dragons in a matchup of two teams ranked in the Top 11 in the state Wednesday night at Manual Stadium.
The game between one of the top scoring teams in the state (Manual, which is No. 5 in the Maher Rankings, entered averaging 5.4 goals per match) and one of the top defensive teams in the state (No. 11 South Oldham came in allowing 1.3 goals per game) was a stalemate much of the way.
The Crimson (12-3) started 10 seniors on their Senior Night and with their two high-scoring strikers Allison Whitfield and Emina Ekic on the backline of the defense. Whitfield and Ekic, both University of Louisville recruits who came in with a combined 46 goals (27 for Whitfield and 19 for Ekic respectively), eventually moved up on the field.
The Dragons outshot Manual 7-5 in the first half, but the Crimson had the best scoring chance. That came in the 21st minute when Whitfield, on a 4-on-2 break, dribbled deep into the box. However, her point-blank shot was knocked away by South Oldham keeper Rachael Lowrey.
The game stayed scoreless until just under 19 minutes remained. That’s when Zamborini received a pass from Whitfield, dribbled to her left, stopped and went back to the right before launching a shot from around the 18-yard box.
“I just cut it and kicked it and it went over the goalie’s head into the goal,” she said.
It was the sixth goal of the season for Zamborini.
“She’s just got a nose for the goal,” Underwood said. “She likes to shoot and she can put it on goal when she has an opportunity. It popped right at her feet and she finished it.”
In addition to sending her senior teammates home happy, Zamborini’s goal also gave the Crimson their fifth win in a row.
Meanwhile it was the third loss in five matches for South Oldham (8-6-3).
“We have played, according to the Maher Rankings, the fourth-hardest schedule in the state,” first-year Dragons coach Ken Burke said. “I think we have played a treacherous schedule. I think that it’s going to bode well for us, as far as the postseason, because we’re not scared to play against teams. We just haven’t been on the victorious side, (but) I think we’re playing with teams. What I’d like to be able to do is link together a couple of more passes in the offensive third where we can test the keepers a little bit more. But I think we can play with them and I think that’s important for our girls to have that confidence that there’s not a team in the state we can’t play with.”
Goals: Manual 1 (Isabella Zamborini), South Oldham 0