Riders score early but fall to Padua 5-1 in Division I girls soccer final

Caesar Rodney’s Laynee Ford reacts to Jessie Prillaman’s goal against Padua during the first half. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

BEAR — For over 35 minutes, Caesar Rodney High’s girls’ soccer team was living the dream.

The Riders surprised top-seeded Padua with a goal in the first three minutes and then rode that lead for most of the half.

But the Pandas changed everything just before halftime.

CR’s Jessie Prillaman leaps into her teammates’ arms after scoring against Padua.

Padua erupted for two quick goals in the final two minutes of the first half before eventually posting a 5-1 victory over No. 2 CR to earn the program’s ninth state crown in the DIAA Division I finals at Caravel on Friday night.

The Riders (15-2-1), who were trying to capture their first state crown in the sport, are now 0-7 all-time in the finals.

In Friday’s first game, Delaware Military edged Tower Hill, 1-0, in two overtimes to earn the program’s first state crown.

CR took an extremely rare lead on Padua (17-1) just three minutes into the contest.

Jessie Prillaman got down low to head a corner kick in on goal. Teammate Laynee Ford redirected the shot past the Padua keeper to give the Riders their 1-0 lead.

It was just the sixth goal that the Pandas surrendered all season.

While Padua had its share of chances at the equalizer, CR’s 1-0 lead held up until the final two minutes of the first half.

That’s when the Pandas’ Rachel Simpson ran onto a loose ball and fired a hard shot in on goal. The shot ricocheted off a Riders’ defender in front to knot the score at 1-1.

Caesar Rodney’s Laynee Ford battles for the ball against Padua during the first half.

But Padua wasn’t done.

Less than a minute later, the Pandas scored again. This time it was Erin Apostolico who got the ball to teammate Olivia Bocchetti for a close-range goal.

Just like that, the Pandas were up 2-1 at halftime.

“I thought we’d played about even with them,” said CR coach Darrell Gravatt. “In the last minute (of the first half) i seemed like we went from one up to 2-1 down. You talk about deflation and elation for them. But that’s Padua.

“They’re a great team with a lot of weapons all over the field. They have a lot of speed and a lot of skill all over the field. There’s no weak link on that team.”

Padua, which lost to Middletown 1-0 in last year’s finals, kept pushing the action to start the second half and quickly added to its advantage. Brieana Hallo fired in a long shot that just cleared leaping CR goalie Morgan Desaulniers.

The goal, just over a minute into the second half, stretched the Pandas’ lead to 3-1.

Caesar Rodney’s Kimberly Glasser battles for the ball against Padua’s Ashlee Brentlinger.

The Riders came into Friday’s game having lost 10 in a row to Padua. That included a 2-1 setback to the Pandas during the regular season.

CR’s last victory over the Pandas came in the 2010 state semifinals.

Padua owned a streak of five straight shutouts coming into Friday’s contest. The Pandas had blanked 13 of their 17 opponents.

Padua is now 9-2 all-time in state championship games.

The Riders posted eight shutouts this season.

“Second place tonight doesn’t feel very good,” said Gravatt. “But when you take a holistic approach, we’re 16-2-1 and our only losses have been to Padua, the Division I champs.”

This is still a young CR squad. The Riders have only three seniors on the roster — Kimberly Glasser, Racel Ewald and Sarah Palmer.

“I definitely think this team’s going to do some good things next year,” said Gravatt. “I think we’ll be formidable again. The future looks great.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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