BY ED WRIGHT
May 4, 2010, 10:05 p.m.
Soccer may be a game of feet, but Tuesday night's Plymouth-Canton showdown quickly evolved into a game of inches.
That's all that separated the two cross-campus combatants in a classic contest that was stocked with upper-echelon skills and down-to-the-wire thrills.
After 80 minutes of relentless, faced-paced, end-to-end competition, the Wildcats and Chiefs had to settle for a 1-1 draw, which left both teams' records at 6-1-3 overall and 4-0-1 in the KLAA South Division.
The game had its share of controversy. With 10:51 to play, Canton's Megan Trapp threaded a ball on net that Plymouth goalie Marissa Williams re-directed. The ball bounced high in front before Christy Balewski -- who was dangerous all night -- tip into the goal, setting off a wild, but only temporary, Chiefs celebration.
The sideline ref ruled the Chiefs were offside on the play, leaving the score at 1-1.
Balewski dinged the cross-bar twice in the games final nine minutes, the second time after looping a shot over Williams' fingertips from a tough angle to Williams' left.
Lindsey Winters, who was stationed in front of the far post, nearly headed the rebound in, but it was just a few inches out of her reach.
"I felt we created enough opportunities to score more goals," said Canton coach George Tomasso. "Our girls put up a good fight for all 80 minutes and Plymouth did a good job of not giving up. I feel like we fell short by not finishing our opportunities."
Canton struck first with 10:10 to play in the first half when Lindsey Winters finished a near-post run and put a perfectly placed shot past the reach of Williams to stake the Chiefs to a 1-0 lead.
"Lindsey kept her composure and tucked it home," said Tomasso. "That was a fantastic goal."
It stood up for less than eight minutes. With 2:15 left before the intermission, Plymouth defender Katie Moss controlled a 15-yard pass from Stephanie Dillon, then ripped a sharp, slicing rope that slipped through the grasp of Canton keep Sam McPartlin and into the back of the net.
"That was an option play where we hit the person who's open," said Plymouth coach Jeff Neschich. "Moss was open; she trapped it, shot it and scored."
Williams played like an All-Stater throughout the second half, denying Balewski with a leaping save three minutes into the second stanza.
With just over eight minutes to play, Williams made a great save on a Winters close-in effort. She then pounced on a rebound shot from five yards out to keep the game deadlocked.
With three minutes left, Plymouth's Jennifer Babcock struck a bending free kick from 25 yards out that Kayla Bridges snagged.
Just over a minute later, Jessica McClendon sent a low pass in front to Balewski, but the connection missed by inches.
"I thought everyone who played tonight played well," said Plymouth coach Jeff Neschich. "We got dinged up a little bit tonight. Canton's a physical team and the ref was letting them play."
The game marked the first of two rivalry showdowns this week for the Chiefs, who take on Salem Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
"I like the fact that we're getting better each game," said Tomasso. "The scores may not reflect it, but we are getting better. We're playing at a faster pace and we're attacking from different parts on the field."
Plymouth's Vittoria Miller advances the ball upfield despite strong opposition from Canton's Lindsey Winters. (Ed Wright photo)
Katie Moss (18) and Christy Balewski both played key roles in Tuesday's game. Moss scored the Wildcats' lone goal while Balewski hit the cross-bar twice with shots. (Ed Wright photo)