ZEPHYR COVE — Incline sophomore Vanessa Andrade is a dangerous weapon when she gets anywhere near the goal.
The center striker led Incline’s charge with a hat trick in a 3-2 win at Whittell on Thursday. Andrade netted all three goals in the first half.
“Against Incline, you can’t give them three open shots or they’re going to burry them,” Whittell coach Patrick Kelly said, “and that’s what they did.”
Andrade’s first goal was off a cross from Elise Nelson 10 minutes into the game.
Andrade then fought off three Whittell players for possession in front of Whittell’s goal and slide-tackled a shot into the goal for No. 2.
She notched her third goal with seven minutes left in the half from about 15 yards out.
Despite the 3-0 score, Whittell was never out of the game. The Warriors maintained equal possessions throughout, and their shots started to find net in the second half.
“I’ll tell you what, we thought we would beat them down in the second half and they came back for it. So I’ve got to give them credit,” Incline coach Tom Canino said.
Whittell striker Kenya Maltase blasted in a left-footed shot for the Warrior’s first goal 20 minutes into the second half.
The Warriors then started rapid firing shots on Incline’s All-State goalkeeper, Sarah Wright, in the second half, but Wright was ready.
She dove and twisted to make spectacular saves, and with solid defensive help from Kerrie Tonking the Highlanders fought off the Warriors.
But Whittell freshman Alison Copsy finally found net for the Warriors with five minutes to go. She popped in a corner kick assist to cut Incline’s lead to 3-2.
Whittell was now trailing by one goal with five minutes left in the game, and there was a frantic atmosphere in the home crowd.
The fans had stuck out frigid temperatures, and now the game was suddenly up for grabs.
Whittell’s midfield fed the ball up to Maltase and she took a shot. The Warriors had been sending shot-after-shot at Wright for the past 20 minutes, and this would be the last one. The ball sailed in front of the goal, but there was no one there, not an Incline defender or Whittell striker.
The Highlanders remained one step ahead.
Incline held onto its 3-2 lead for the win, and Whittell felt the sting of its first loss this season.
“Incline is a very good team,” Kelly said. “They have very good players so it was really back-and-forth, but they capitalized on their chances tonight, and we didn’t until the end of the game. One or two more bounces and things could have been a little bit different.”
Incline is now 9-1 overall and 5-1 in league. Whittell is 6-1 overall and 5-1 in league.