Tuscola soccer finishes County Clash sweep

May 3—For one last time, Tuscola and Pisgah took the field against each other this school year. On this occasion, it was the Tuscola soccer team grabbing a 3-1 win over their rivals in Canton.

"It was an effort game," Tuscola coach Ray Sugg said. "It was a guts game. When we play them next year, maybe we'll come in more confident, but I'll take the win."

While the Mounties had won all 10 games between 2014 and 2019, Tuscola had not won a game in the series since then before this year's series sweep. Pisgah won twice in 2022 and the teams tied both games last year.

While the 3-1 scoreline looks like a heavy victory for Tuscola, the game was much closer throughout the 80 minutes.

"I know some of the girls are disappointed because we didn't play as well as we have the last four or five games. I knew it was going to be like this because this is the game for Pisgah. If they win this game, this makes their season. We didn't help things by not putting things away in the first half," Sugg said. "I give them credit. They played hard. They gave us a fit."

Pisgah coach Luis Garcia said his team is going to continue to work hard.

"Today is for them. Tomorrow is for us," Garcia said. "I'm proud of the players. We're still working to wake up the Bear."

Early on, both teams had scoring chances. Pisgah had a chance to take the lead early, but Julia Wells made a diving deflection to stop the shot.

Ten minutes after the save from Wells, Tuscola freshman Haven Roth got a scoring chance in front of the net and took full advantage, scoring her first career goal for the Mounties to put the visitors on top.

Eleven minutes after the goal, it looked like Tuscola may have gone up 2-0, but the goal was ruled out due to contact with the Pisgah sophomore keeper Holly Henderson.

Despite giving up a pair of late goals to lose the match, Henderson had a fantastic match — racking up 12 saves throughout the contest.

"Their goalkeeper made a couple of really good saves where we thought we had her beat," Sugg said.

Coming out to start the second half, Pisgah was playing with some fury and putting pressure on their rivals.

"We got a little flat in the back," Sugg said. "We made some silly fouls and gave them some chances."

Halfway through the second half, Pisgah was awarded a free kick about 40 yards from goal. Junior Kenna Lawing lined up over the ball, ripping the shot on frame.

The ball bounced around in front of the net and found its way in.

"She did a great job. She's very upset with herself for letting that one in," Sugg said of his keeper, freshman Julia Wells. "The sun is a factor. Ordinarily, she gets that."

The goal drew loud cheers from the home stands and sidelines.

"We were happy," Garcia said. "We were looking for more. It was exciting."

Lawing was a force for the Bears all night, scoring the lone goal and stopping numerous Tuscola scoring chances throughout the night.

After the goal, a switch flipped for the Mounties. Oftentimes, a team will play deflated after allowing a goal, but it was the opposite for Tuscola.

"It's a rivalry game," he said. "I told them at halftime, 'We're up 1-0. We need to get up 3-0 to feel comfortable because the longer they're in it, the harder they're going to play.' And the minute they scored the goal I think they realized 'Oh shoot, he was right. We better start playing now.'"

Seven minutes after the equalizer, junior Gracie Rinker ripped a shot off of Henderson and into the back of the net, breaking the tie with what Sugg called a "beautiful game-winning goal."

With two minutes left in the match, Tuscola put the dagger in the Bears, with another freshman finding a goal. This time it was Emma Clancy, who got a one-on-one breakaway against the goalie. Her initial shot was saved, but Clancy tapped the rebound in to extend the lead to 3-1.

As is the case with many rivalry games, tensions were high and both teams were playing physically. The physicality led to each team receiving a yellow card at different points in the match.

"I will sub very quickly when I see that happening," Sugg said. "Sometimes they tend to turn it into a personal struggle with the player that just pushed them, but this is not a personal game. This is 11 players."

Now, both teams look ahead to their final week of the season.

Pisgah, who are currently 0-16, will have three chances to grab a win to close out the season. The Bears host East Henderson on Friday night, before visiting the Eagles on Monday.

"We're going to play the same way we did today," Garcia said. "We'll play with everything, and we'll see if we can get something. Hopefully, the Bear is going to wake up."

Then, Pisgah will close the year out with their senior night game against North Henderson on Wednesday.

Tuscola will host Smoky Mountain on Monday for their senior night contest. The Mounties then wrap their regular season up on Wednesday with a trip to play West Henderson.

"I've only got three seniors," Sugg said about Monday's game. "I'd love it if a senior could get a goal. That would spark us."