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Cox nets hat trick as Padua shuts out Caravel in girls soccer showdown

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BEAR – Kristi Cox continued a stellar season, scoring three times as Padua, the top-ranked team in Division I, captured a convincing win at Caravel on April 27 in a matchup of two of the state’s top programs. The Pandas left Bob Peoples Stadium with a 4-0 triumph.

Caravel, Division II’s No. 3 team in the latest 302Sports.com rakings, stayed with the Pandas for the first 13 minutes or so, and at one point sent a free kick wide of Pandas keeper Katie Szczerba. Another shot went high and through the football goalposts. For the most part, however, the Buccaneers were marked tightly by Padua’s defenders, struggling to get open space all night.

Rachel Simpson plays the ball for Padua against Caravel. (The Dialog/Mike Lang)

Padua gradually took over possession, and the Buccaneers were unable to stay with the Pandas. Nearly every time they touched the ball, they went on the attack, sending ball after ball deep into Buccaneers territory. Their first opportunity came in the 17th minute, when Ashlee Brentlinger dribbled a ball to the end line to the right of Keld, then sent a cross that just eluded the reach of Paige Kenton. Several minutes later, Kenton’s cross missed Brentlinger by inches.

The pressure paid off in the 24th. The Pandas intercepted a throw-in, and Kenton got the ball to Brentlinger. She sent a through ball to a streaking Cox, who was alone in front of Bucs keeper Sydney Keld. Cox redirected the pass with her left foot and into the lower 90.

Brentlinger and Cox teamed up again three minutes later. Brentlinger took a throw-in from Juliana DelliCompagni, spun around a defender and sent a pass into the crease. Cox had some space and went high this time to make it 2-0.

The Pandas had a few near-misses as the half progressed, including a shot by Kenton that Keld deflected off the crossbar and over the net in the closing seconds. That gave Padua a corner kick, and they capitalized. Rachel Simpson’s inbounds kick was headed by Erin Apostolico, and Kenton swiped the loose ball into the net for a 3-0 advantage. The halftime whistle sounded just seconds after the goal.

Caravel keeper Sydney Keld makes a save in front of teammate Nicole Rankin as Padua’s Paige Kenton watches. (The Dialog/Mike Lang)

Padua was in control throughout the second half, and Cox completed her hat trick in the 63rd minute. Olivia Bocchetti took a free kick from 32 yards out, and the ball appeared to hit a Bucs defender and deflect toward Cox. Her attempt went high up in the air, came down and bounced over Keld and into the net.

Padua finished the night with 21 shots and five corner kicks. Szczerba saved the only shot she faced as the Pandas recorded their sixth shutout win of the year. The Pandas (8-1) begin a busy week on Tuesday when they travel to Smyrna to face the Eagles in a 6 p.m. start.

Keld had 11 saves for the Buccaneers, who fell to 5-3. They also return to the pitch Tuesday, visiting St. Elizabeth at Alapocas Run State Park at 3:45 p.m.