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Early goal stands up as Caravel edges Padua in battle of girls soccer powerhouses

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Caravel keeper Sydney Keld gets just enough of this header from Padua to keep the ball out of the net on the game's final play.

BEAR – Caravel took advantage of one of its few shots on goal, and Buccaneers goalkeeper Sydney Keld stood tall against two last-minute challenges in a 1-0 victory over Padua on April 5 at Bob Peoples Stadium. The game, played in unseasonably cool temperatures with intermittent drizzles, pitted the teams ranked No. 1 in their respective divisions by 302Sports.com.

The Buccaneers and Pandas have met each year since 2014, and it was the first win for Caravel. The teams tied in 2015. It was Padua’s first regular-season loss to an in-state opponent since a 2-1 decision vs. Wilmington Charter on May 12, 2014.

Screenshot from 302 Sports

The opening minutes belonged to Division I’s Pandas, as they worked the ball into the Caravel defensive zone over and over again. But the Bucs’ defense, in what would become a familiar refrain all night, would not give. The Buccaneers, tops in Division II, kept a few defenders back toward Keld to clog up the 18-yard box, and other players pressured the Pandas as they tried to get the ball to their scorers.

The possession that resulted in the game’s only goal began with a stop by Keld in the 10th minute. The keeper’s goal kick was corralled near midfield by Rachel Owens and eventually ended up on the foot of Caitlin St. Leger. She found Alaina Stewart, who passed to an open Stewart. Stewart let it fly from 35 yards out, and the ball found the small space between the crossbar and the outstretched arm of Pandas keeper Sophia Gonser.

Sydni Wright got free for the Pandas less than 90 seconds after the goal, but her shot missed just wide right. Twice, Wright sent crossing passes through the crease, but none of her teammates was able to catch up to the ball. Padua had several corner kicks, but they were unable to mount a serious chance on those.

When the Pandas did get shots on net, Keld – who has yet to allow a goal this season – was rock solid. She stoned Wright with a diving stop in the 29th minute. She stopped Sophia Marini in the 35th.

Sophia Gonser couldn’t quite get to this shot from Summer Stewart of Caravel. It was the game’s lone goal. (Screenshot from 302 Sports)

The pattern continued into the second half, although the Buccaneers had more possession time than in the first. Every time Padua would get the ball deep, Caravel’s defenders, including Karli Cauley, Lauren Hayden, Megan North and Nicole Rankin, would clog the passing and shooting lanes.

Paige Kenton split two defenders in the 45th minute and managed to get a shot off. It deflected off the foot of a Bucs defender but rolled inches wide of the right post. Four corner kicks in the first 10 minutes of the half did not produce a goal, but on the third, Keld was forced to dive to her right to stop an attempt.

The Pandas were just as stingy on defense. The Bucs struggled to get any offense going, although they had the advantage of playing with the lead. Their best chances in the second half came on a pair of corner kicks about halfway through, but neither resulted in a shot on goal. Gonser’s second-half saves came on longer-distance shots.

A header by Marini was stopped by Keld with about five minutes to go. The Pandas came close on two more corners in the last two minutes. Keld was the difference on those. On the first one, she caught the inbounds pass before it reached an offensive player. The second, which ended up being the final play of the game, was headed toward the upper 90, but the keeper, who stands 6 feet tall, reached up with her right hand and swatted the ball away.

Padua had 14 shots to five for the Buccaneers, and the Pandas earned 11 corner kicks to four for Caravel. Gonser had four saves. The Pandas (3-1) hit the road early Saturday for a trip to the Virginia Beach, Va., area, to meet Cape Henry Collegiate at 3 p.m.

For the Bucs, Keld had nine saves. Caravel remained undefeated at 5-0 and stays home for a meeting with St. Georges Tech on Tuesday at 7:!5 p.m.

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