By VAN HOLLAND
The 14th ranked Tarboro Vikings were put up to a challenge Monday for the first time in Eastern Plains Conference action. They had beaten their first two opponents in conference action with ease and when they faced off against the Kinston Vikings, they let Tarboro know right from the get go they weren't going to be a cake walk. Tarboro had to play a near perfect match to beat them, but an early goal in the second half by junior Shayla Thorne was the difference and gave Tarboro a 1-0 victory.
"We needed a match like this, because we need all the challenges we can get," Tarboro coach Leshaun Jenkins said. "Tight games make you build character and make you play your best when your backs are against the wall."
Tarboro (11-1-1, 3-0) had to dig real deep to come out on top and had their backs against the wall, but Jenkins said he knew his girls had it in them. Tarboro has been spoiled as a team as of late, because they have been defeating their opponents with ease and have been able to do almost anything they wanted to do during the matches. Tarboro took 16 shots on goal, but they weren't easy as they have been in past matches.
Jenkins knew coming into the match, Kinston was a well coached team and they weren't going to just lay down and give Tarboro the match.
"I knew the match wasn't going to be easy, because they have a good coach teaching them the game," Jenkins said. "I knew they were going to come out and go right at us so we had to do some things different, but we were able to accomplish what we wanted."
Kinston controlled the beginning of the match and were winning loose balls and were getting the advantages on Tarboro. That didn't please Jenkins and at halftime, he let his team know he wasn't pleased with their subpar first half performance. He told them they had to fight to win the loose balls and they needed to close in on the open space to make Kinston take tougher shots.
The talked worked, because Tarboro turned up the defensive pressure, but Kinston controlled the ball most of the second half and forced Tarboro to play tough defense the majority of the half. They closed in on Kinston's offensive players and made then take contested shots.
Just 10 minutes into the final half, Thorne found daylight between her and the Kinston goalie after she had received a pass from Carmen Guilford. Thorne got around the Kinston defenders and punched the ball by the goalie as she came out to stop Thorne. Thorne's goal was her 34th of the season.
"Shayla stepped up and found a way to score a goal for us," Jenkins said. "She does some things at times that helps us offensively. She is still learning the game and is just going to get better each day she continues to work on her game."
Senior defender Chandler Harris and goalie Courtney Perkins were instrumental in Tarboro's win as well. Perkins had 12 saves and Harris was all over the defensive end of the field helping protect Tarboro's perfect record in the conference.
That was Perkins' 10th shutout of the season. She has had matches where she hasn't had much action, but she had plenty from Kinston. Kinston took 17 shots on goal and Perkins was able to use her goalie skills to her advantage to make some spectacular saves with the ground being wet.
"Courtney did an outstanding job for us, especially with the ground being wet like it was," Jenkins said. "She used her skills and what she had been taught to help her defend the wet ground and keep them from scoring even though the ball was skidding across the grass."
Harris was stellar defensively. She helped control the tempo on defense and saved nine balls when Kinston got around Tarboro defenders. Harris moved around and made sure her teammates weren't going to have a problem getting beat one on one.
"Chandler did an amazing job helping out when some of our defenders were beaten," Jenkins said. "She has been an important piece for us all season back there and has been one of the main reasons we're where we are now."
Tarboro's schedule doesn't get any easier. They are back in action today when they travel to Wilson to play the Beddingfield Bruins at 5 p.m.