By BRIAN CUNNIFF
STONE HARBOR — Riley Kane stood at the penalty spot with the game on her right foot.
The junior midfielder from the Wildwood Catholic High School girls soccer team didn’t miss her opportunity.
Kane hit the back left corner of the net on a penalty kick less than three minutes forem full time as the Crusaders rallied from a 1-0 halftime deficit to stun Holy Spirit, 2-1, Monday afternoon.
“Coming back in a game was something we needed to work on,” Wildwood Catholic coach Kara Saunders said. “Whenever we were down last season we lost. I think against Buena (in the season opener, a 0-0 draw), even though we weren’t down, they dominated possession against us for a while and we never folded and kept our composure. That was something we needed.”
Kane buried the penalty kick after teammate Ivy Bolle was fouled in the upper right corner of the box.
Kane also set up the equalizer, her perfectly weighted chip pass from the left side slicing open the Spartan defense and springing Bolle for a wide-open chance midway through the second half. Bolle did not miss.
“I think Riley really settled into this game,” Saunders said. “With her and Kimmy (Casiello), I need one of them to be offensive for us (out of the midfield). Riley is more defensive minded but I want her to be more offensive and get the ball in their final third. I think she saw the opportunities. She had some time and she saw who she could beat with little touches and then get the ball to our outside mids. She’s a good player to see that and use that.”
Wildwood Catholic employed a defend-and-counterattack style to find its offense in the second half. While Spirit enjoyed more of the possession, the Crusaders generated more dangerous scoring chances by quickly getting the ball forward to Bolle, Marianna Papazoglou and others.
Wildwood Catholic goalkeeper Leona Macrina needed to make one big save in the second half, leaping to tip a long Spirit shot over the bar. Defenders Mia Caso, Delaney Robb and Lauren McCallion shut down all other Spirit advances.
“I feel like we have a really solid defense and a solid goalie and we want to utilize that,” Saunders said. “In the middle of the game I thought we were bombing it back and forth too much but then we started to use our defense. The power of Mia and Delaney really helped and we utilized our outside mids.”
The victory kept the Crusaders unbeaten (3-0-1). The team next plays Pleasantville Wednesday before an important Cape-Atlantic United Conference clash with Our Lady of Mercy Academy on Friday.
“This was a great way to start our week,” Saunders said.