By Nick Hampton
WAGONER — It was a game of two different halves, but Class 4A No. 7 Hilldale found a way to win and remained undefeated on the season with a 3-1 victory over Wagoner Tuesday at WL Odom Field.
The Lady Hornets (4-0) came out strong in the first half as Sydney Lomax found a streaking Grace Farley inside the Wagoner defense and Farley put it past goalkeeper Mikayla Taylor with just 2 1/2 minutes gone to make it 1-0.
Hilldale kept up the offensive pressure with most of the first half played in the Wagoner end where senior striker Leah Gragg played a key role. She bent a beautiful corner kick into the middle, but no one could get a head on it. But later, with 10:21 left in the half, Gragg, on another corner kick, hooked the ball into the upper right corner for the goal from the corner to make it 2-0.
The second half was not as pleasant for Hornet coach Brent Breckon as Hilldale lost its intensity on offense.
“I thought we played very ugly in the second half, didn’t play our style, were on our heels and just weren’t being aggressive at all. They just outhustled us in that second half,” said Breckon.
The Lady, Hornet defense managed to keep Wagoner at bay until Gragg took a sideline pass, maneuvered around a defender, and left-footed in a goal from 20 yards out to give Hilldale an insurance score with 8:30 to play.
“I feel pretty confident using my left foot when I have to,” said Gragg. “I’ve worked hard on using my left foot all my soccer career so I’m comfortable with either one.”
For No. 13 Wagoner (1-2), coach Brandon Carr was disappointed but not displeased.
“Our girls are like Jekyll and Hyde right now. We haven’t been able to put 80 minutes together yet,” he said. “Like tonight, Hilldale did whatever they wanted in the first half. The second half we played much better, but they got that third goal in and we couldn’t recover.”
Wagoner 2, Hilldale 1 (SO)
The Bulldogs never-say-die attitude on offense and the defensive play of goal keeper Jarrett Ellis helped Wagoner capture its first win of the season in a shootout.
Despite a decisive edge in shots-on-goal (17-9), the Hornets couldn’t convert their opportunities and Wagoner made them pay.
“My boys needed this win,” said an enthused coach Carr. “When you start 0-4, it affects your confidence level.
“We scrimmaged Hilldale earlier, so we knew what to expect. I told them before the game this is one you can win if you’ll just come out and play and that’s what they did.”
After a scoreless first half, the No.11-ranked Hornets (3-2) got on the board when Hunter Woods gathered a loose ball in front of the net and fired it in for a 1-0 lead with 13:50 to play in the game. Wagoner tied the game on a tap in front of the net by Colby Taylor that deflected off Hilldale goal keeper Michael Breckon with just 1:28 left.
In the shootout, things were still tied after the original five players from each team took their turns, with each team hitting three penalty shots and missing two. That meant extra players. Junior Blake Moua stepped up for the Bulldogs and knocked it in to the lower left corner. That put it on the shoulders of Hilldale senior Chase Staner, whose shot to the lower left corner was blocked by Ellis as the Wagoner sideline erupted.
For Hornet first year coach David Saunders, the loss was tough to take.
“From the beginning I thought there was just one team that was going to win that game and that was us. At halftime I told them you’ve got to create chances and score because I still felt like we were the dominant team in the game,” said Saunders. “But credit Wagoner. They never stopped even after we scored late in the game.”
All four teams will return to action in the Wagoner Tournament starting Thursday.