SMITHFIELD — Thirty minutes into Wednesday night’s conference soccer match with Western Harnett, Smithfield-Selma coach Kristian Stewart was looking for something to lift his Spartans out of their doldrums.
He decided to move sophomore midfielder Kara Harrison to the midfield area.
“We made a shift in the last ten minutes,” Stewart said. “We brought Kara back and put her in the midfield.”
The switch proved to be the difference maker as the Spartans assumed control of the game in the final 10 minutes of the first half, then dominated second-half action en route to a 2-0 victory over visiting Western Harnett.
The victory marked the second of the season for the Spartans, both at the expense of the Eagles, and moved Smithfield-Selma to 2-8 overall and 2-4 in the Two Rivers 3A Conference.
Harrison, along with sophomore defender Parker Watson and junior midfielder Morgan Eatmon, took control of the midfield, shutting down the Eagles’ attack while enabling the Spartans to pressure Western Harnett’s defensive third.
“Our first half, we had been very sluggish,” Stewart said. “We were making bad touches and just didn’t seem prepared for the game.
“Plus, they (the Eagles) out-hustled us in the first 30 minutes; it seemed like we had been out-shot 8-1. We finally started to get it together the last 10 minutes of the first half.”
Western Harnett had out-shot the Spartans 3-1 in the 30-minute span before Stewart moved Watson forward.
After the move, the Spartans spent nine of the next 10 minutes in the Eagles’ defensive third, firing the final five shots of the half. Smithfield-Selma just missed wide right with 3 1/2 minutes left in the half, then got stymied on a free kick with 90 seconds to play.
The Spartans kept up the pressure in the second half, as Watson and Harrison cleaned nearly every ball in the midfield area.
Watson’s play enabled Harrison, Eatmon and Holly Rabil to pressure the Eagles defensive third time and again.
“She (Harrison) is a presence in the middle of the field,” Stewart said. “If Parker pushes up, it allows Kara to go and attack the defensive third.”
The Spartans were rewarded midway through the second half, earning their fourth corner kick of the match.
Eatmon served the ball from the right side of the field, bending it toward the near post of the Eagles’ goal.
The serve arched high, and Eagles’ goalkeeper Raven Barnes reached up to bat the ball away, only to have it deflect off her hands and into the goal.
Western Harnett picked up its offense in the following two minutes but could not generate enough of an attack to manage a shot on goal, thanks to the efforts of Watson, Eatmon and Harrison who seemed to be all over the field.
“Parker and Kara were playing off each other,” Stewart said. “And it paid off.”
The payoff came when Watson won the ball in the midfield area and slid a pass to Rabil.
Rabil then connected with a streaking Harrison, who blasted the insurance goal into the left side of the Eagles’ net with 12 minutes left in the match.
The Spartans ended the match with a 14-5 advantage in shots on goal and 5-2 in corners. Smithfield-Selma goalkeeper Caroline Carter registered four saves, while Barnes stopped seven shots for Western Harnett.