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Rapid City Stevens midfielder Kylee Bennett netted the tying goal in the 74th minute as the Raiders finished with a 2-2 draw with rival Rapid City Central on Tuesday at a breezy Sioux Park Stadium.

The Cobblers built a 2-0 lead with goals in the ninth and 31st minutes, only to see Stevens come back to earn a tie by netting goals in the 36th and 74th minutes.

“My hat’s off to Stevens,” Central coach Mark Morgan said. “Luis has a good team, they’re well coached and they played a little different style than I’ve seen them play in the past.”

Play revolved around the efforts of Cobbler senior Emma Avery for much of the first half. The Central midfielder often halted Stevens’ efforts to move the ball toward the Cobbler zone. Once in possession of the ball, Avery pushed Central’s offense ahead.

Avery staked the Cobblers to a 1-0 lead when she hammered home a goal from about 20 yards out.

Central went up 2-0 on a right place, right time goal by Alexa Henry, who chipped the ball in from close range after she found herself open and the ball on her foot.

Stevens coach Luis Usera made two subtle adjustments to try and change his team’s play.

First, he changed how his team defended against Avery to try and move play away from the Cobbler standout. Second, he substituted regularly in an attempt to get his players to see the flow of the game differently.

“Alexa’s a great player,” Usera said. “You give her any openings, she’s going to put the ball in the net. She took their corner kicks. She was their best defender.

“I was doing a lot of subbing to try and calm the girls’ nerves a little bit and to get them to think differently, to become students of the game and not just participants.”

The Raiders drew within 2-1 when forward Abbie Noga’s crossing pass found Leah Arnold at the far corner of the penalty area. Arnold fired off a quick shot that found the back of the net.

Play continued to go in Stevens’ favor during the second half, when the Raiders had the north breeze at their back. The Raiders hit the crossbar a handful of times, only to have the Cobblers clear the ball.

“The chances of hitting the bar are slimmer than scoring a goal,” Usera pointed out.

Stevens’ drew even when Central’s goalkeeper misplayed a bouncing ball in front of the goal mouth and Bennett knocked it home to tie the game at 2-all.

“This one hurts,” Morgan said. “This would’ve been a big win for us, points-wise.”

“Central came out with a really strong game plan,” Usera said. “Even when they went to play defense when the wind was in their face, it was an intelligent plan. We just had to rise.”

Stevens (3-1-2) hosts Sturgis at Sioux Park Stadium on Friday. Central (5-1-2) is off until Sept. 19 when the Cobblers play St. Thomas More at the Dakota Fields soccer complex.

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