By Nick Hampton
WAGONER – Last year, they were the Cinderella team of Class 4A soccer. This year, the Lady Bulldogs of Wagoner know there will be no sneaking up on opponents.
With that in mind, Wagoner began another run into the 4A playoffs with a convincing 3-1 win over Oologah in a play-in game Friday night at Odom Field.
In 2012, Wagoner began the playoffs as an as unknown factor, but powered its way to the state semifinals before losing 1-0 to Bethany. This year, coach Brandon Carr knows everyone will be gunning for them.
“We told the girls in preseason that we upset some people last year in the playoffs and so we’ve got a big target on our back now,” said Carr. ‘We try to train that way and always have that in the back of our mind.”
The Lady Bulldogs (11-4) got on the scoreboard midway through the opening half. Forward Becca Tillman was fouled just outside the goal box and on her ensuing free kick, hooked a shot into the upper-left corner of the goal from 23 yards out. That was the first of two goals and an assist on the night for the senior striker.
“On the first goal I was mainly just mad because of the foul, so that’s why I had power behind it,” said Tillman. “On the second goal (with 6:45 to play in the game), I was just ready for the game to be over.”
The other Wagoner goal was scored by Skylar Bruce off an assist by Tillman seven minutes into the second half to give the Lady Bulldogs some insurance.
Oologah was outplayed at midfield and when it did get into the offensive end, Wagoner goal keeper Mikayla Taylor was up to the challenge. Taylor pulled two corner kicks out of the air, made several deflections and out-hustled Oologah to any loose balls in the penalty box all night.
“Tuesday I had a pretty rough night after allowing a tying goal to get through me against Pawhuska,” said the junior keeper. “So I just felt like I had to redeem myself tonight and I just tried as hard as I could.”
Oologah’s lone goal came after Taylor went to the ground to block a shot only to have the deflection go to forward Kendall Lewis, who tapped it in. The Lady Mustangs end their season at 6-6.
The win for Wagoner sets up a return engagement at No. 2 Fort Gibson on Tuesday. The Lady Tigers were one of those teams that Wagoner upset last year in the playoffs and Carr knows Fort Gibson has been waiting for this game.
“We played them early this season and played mostly their junior varsity team because a lot of their girls were just finishing up basketball or cheerleading,” he said. “They still beat us 1-0 and we looked bad, so we know we’ve got our work cut out for us.
“I’m sure they’ve hoped this game would come to pass since the start of the season. It’s going to be very, very difficult to get a win at their place, especially after last year.”