By Nick Hampton
Hilldale’s first two games slipped away in the second half.
This time, the Lady Hornets had firm footing after the break in rolling over Wright Christian Academy 5-1 to record their first win of the season Monday at Hornet Stadium.
Madison Patterson’s goal 15 minutes into the game and Leah Gragg’s goal six minutes later put Hilldale up 2-0, echoing the previous two starts.
But despite a 14-4 edge on shots at goal, Hilldale held just a one-goal advantage at the half. Stacy Gravett narrowed the gap on a penalty kick in the 27th minute and her team had a chance to tie the game a few minutes later when the Lady Hornets were whistled for a foul just outside the penalty box, but the direct kick from 10 yards out sailed high.
“The first half we were just very lethargic and didn't have much drive,” said Hilldale coach Brent Breckon. “I told the girls at halftime as long we continue to play like this, we're going to struggle. You've got to come out with a lot more intensity in the second half.”
And that they did.
It took Gragg just over two minutes to find the goal again, working her away around a pair of defenders to make it 3-1. Gragg and Whitney Farley each scored a goal over the next 18 minutes to make it 5-1.
Gragg wasn’t totally pleased.
“We're having a little more trouble communicating than we did last year,” said Gragg, a returning starter. “We're all close and we talk all the time in practice and off the field but in the games we just kind of freeze up.”
The Lady Hornets (1-2) outshot the Wildcats 24-6 and totally dominated them in the second half defensively as Wright Christian got the ball in the goal box only twice.
“The girls really picked it up in the second half and Leah really stepped up to score the hat trick,” said Breckon. “We still need to work on our touch and on our crosses but the win gives us some badly needed confidence.”
Wright Christian 2, Hilldale 1
Goal keeping was the name of the game for these two teams as a furious rally at the end fell short for the Hornets.
The Wildcats scored on a loose ball scrum in front of the goal with 10 minutes to play in the half and again on a squib grounder that just got by freshman goalkeeper Michael Breckon as time expired, giving Wright Christian a 2-0 lead in the locker room. The son of the Hilldale coach did have three key saves to keep it close.
Hilldale narrowed the margin midway through the second half on a penalty kick by Brian Martinez. It looked like the Hornets (1-3) might tie it up in the late going when, with about two minutes left, junior Oscar Tapia rifled a shot that Wildcat goalie Cobi Piper knocked away, falling down in the process. Bailey James headed the loose ball back towards the goal for the Hornets, right into the hands of Piper, who was sitting on the ground.
Hilldale got one last opportunity on a blocked shot by Piper and a follow-up header that Piper leaped and just tipped over the net with :10 seconds left to preserve the win.
“We’ve got to learn to build our intensity,” said the elder Breckon “Tonight, I felt we were intense maybe 50 of the 80 minutes of the game. We had some great defense and goal keeping and some good opportunities offensively, but we just weren’t able to capitalize on those.”
Hilldale’s teams are off until they travel to Fort Gibson after spring break.