Caesar Rodney girls fall 2-1 to Padua in state soccer title rematch

Caesar Rodney’s Haley Schafer goes against Padua’s Sophia Marini on a header during a Padua corner kick in the first half at CR. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

CAMDEN — With the wind swirling and the scoreboard showing a two-goal deficit, Megan Rigsby lined up for a free kick.

The Caesar Rodney High junior back drilled the ball and slipped it past Padua Academy’s goalkeeper and into the back of the net from about 40 yards out to put the Riders on the board in the game’s 70th minute.

“I’m not shocked, she can really hit it,” said CR coach Darrell Gravatt. “She’s our long-distance free kick shooter and you can see why. I don’t know how far out that was — probably 40 or so yards out — and she was nothing but net. It was just a missile.”

While Padua held off the late rally and went on to defeat Caesar Rodney, 2-1, on Tuesday, Rigsby’s free kick is the only goal scored against the Pandas (3-0) so far this season.

“It feels good to put it to Padua like that because it kind of gives us confidence and lets us know that we can hang with them,” Rigsby said.

The nonconference loss drops the Riders to 2-1 heading into Thursday’s Henlopen North showdown at Sussex Central High.

It comes less than a year after falling, 5-1, to Padua in last season’s DIAA Division I state title game.

“I’m real proud of the girls,” said Gravatt. “What a test to play Padua. It’s not going to get any tougher than that and we were right there, 2-1.

“We didn’t start real well. It was our second game in a row we started slow, but I thought we got better, much better, as the game went on and I thought we played quite well in the second half.”

Padua won its first two games by 8-0 and 7-0 scores, but CR goalkeeper Morgan Desaulniers made seven saves as the Pandas peppered her and the back line with 16 shots and three corner kick attempts.

“Morgan was outstanding, she made some great saves,” Gravatt said. “She comes off her line real well and reads the game. She’s just real sharp, a fast reader of the game and just a real general back there with her back line.”

“It feels good,” Rigsby said of the back line’s performance. “It gives me confidence and hopefully it gives my younger back line confidence that they can step up to balls too and come out with a good outcome.”

Padua out-shot CR 16-4, while junior Paige Kenton scored both goals for the Pandas.

“There’s really nothing you can do, you prepare during practice and then it just becomes instinct and reaction,” Desaulniers said of preparing for Padua. “You just really have to keep your confidence up because if you play nervous, you’re just not going to do well, so just doing what you can to not be nervous.”

Rigsby put up two of those four CR shots, while senior forwards Jessie Prillaman and Macy Ramsey each registered one shot for the Riders.

Padua had its scoring opportunities early in the first half, but Desaulniers’ defensive effort in goal held the Pandas off until Kenton broke the scoreless tie with a goal in the 17th minute. Freshman Haley Dougherty was credited with the assist.

Caesar Rodney’s Julia Zipp almost gets kicked by Padua’s Paige Kenton in the first half.

“Usually when someone’s coming down for a breakaway, the defender stays on and then I try to cut off the other angle,” Desaulniers explained. “She was coming in kind of fast, so I was kind of just caught in between where it was. It was just unlucky.”

Trailing just 1-0 at the halftime break, the Riders came out in the second half with more energy and spent much of the first 15 minutes of the half on the attacking side of the field.

“It’s the second game in a row where we came out with a lot of energy in the second half,” said Gravatt. “We needed to play two halves like the second half and we’d really be a strong team.”

The Riders’ Julia Zipp battles Padua’s Sydni Wright in the first half.

Kenton extended the lead to 2-0 with her goal in the 51st minute, receiving the assist from senior Brandy Conte.

Rigsby’s 70th minute free kick wasn’t enough to pull off a two-goal comeback, but it was enough to instill confidence in some of CR’s younger girls heading into the team’s next game.

And so does allowing just two goals to a team that scored a combined 15 in its previous two games.

“The defense held up very well, we have a nice back four,” Gravatt said. “We don’t have any seniors on that back line, and no seniors in the net, so our back five is all coming back next year. It was a great test against Padua and our back line held up real well.”

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