Playing through: Browder, Gryphons top Nash Central in non-conference play

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Rocky Mount High's Katherine Moss, right, shoots the ball as Nash Central's Bianca Ricks defends Tuesday during the match at Nash Central High School.


Sports Writer

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The Rocky Mount High girls’ soccer team was getting ahead of itself.

The Gryphons were whistled for offsides at least five times in the second half of their 5-1 win over host Nash Central on Tuesday. Scoring chances, even some with odd-man advantages, were halted before they materialized.

This is life for a team with offensive riches like the Gryphons, and for a Bulldogs team that is learning to play without their top offensive threat, Linzi Long, who scored 36 goals with 19 assists last year as a senior.

“Not having Linzi and not having that offense is really what’s killing us,” Nash Central coach Kyle Cherlinczuk-Ruiz said. “And teams are not threatened so they’ll send half their team up (on offense). This game we started getting a little traction and we’ll keep teams from sending their entire squad.

“The first time we played Rocky Mount they had five people lined up against our group of four, and if they sent one ball over the top we couldn’t stop them.”

The Gryphons (3-2) won the first meeting between the two teams, 10-1, on March 4. A couple weeks later and Nash Central (1-4) has cut that margin of defeat in half, while finding ways to combat the aggressive styles of its opponents.

The trick is to have a crafty defender like Bianca Ricks. The Bulldogs senior played with a freshman teammate on each side, and helped direct the young defenders around the field. Ricks often diffused Gryphon scoring chances, and played an important role in catching eager RMH forwards offsides.

“She’s the most aware defender I have back there and she stepped up every single time,” Cherlinczuk-Ruiz said of Ricks. “If you take that one step too far, and the defender is watching you, it’ll get you every time. She’s fantastic.”

Nash Central’s lone goal on Tuesday came with 6:32 remaining when Hailey Dinota scored on a set piece. She popped the ball over a three-person wall and into the back corner of the net.

For the Gryphons, the win marked healthy progress as they wade through a stretch of three games in as many days. RMH has won its past two games by a combined score of 7-1 with Monday’s victory over Cleveland.

Carson Browder scored a pair of goals for RMH on Tuesday, and teammate Katie Moss scored the other. Two goals were credited as Nash Central own goals, one in each half.

The Gryphons also had a number of scoring chances, forcing freshman Nash Central goalkeeper Maddie Worsley to make five saves in the half, most requiring her to dive to the ground.

Next up, RMH will host Greenville Conley at 5 p.m. on Wednesday to wrap up the non-conference schedule. The game is an important measuring stick, as Conley defeated RMH 9-0 in the season opener on Feb. 27.

And a lot of what the Gryphons tried to do against the Bulldogs were aimed at cleaning up inconsistencies on offense.

“We have a very aggressive forward and a very aggressive attacking center midfielder and when they're up I expect them to get some offsides called because they’re going to be riding that last defender,” Gryphons coach Richard Oxendine said. “So the biggest thing I want to see us doing better is stringing some passes together in the midfield before we play that longball.

“(Wednesday) is going to be a big test because it will show us if we’re growing,” Oxendine continued. “When we play (Conley) they usually expose what we need to work on so, so now it’s kind of like we can see how much we’ve improved.”