By Nick Hampton
After controlling most of the game, Hilldale let down its guard and lost their season opener to the Poteau Lady Pirates 3-2 in a sudden-death shootout at Hornet Stadium Tuesday night.
But not without some suspense and controversy.
Despite playing into the stiff northerly breeze in the first half, the Lady Hornets dominated the contest, outshooting Poteau 10-4. Hilldale’s best scoring opportunity came with 6:30 left when junior Leah Gragg rifled a shot from the right wing that deflected off the cross bar. The first half ended scoreless.
“I was really happy about the way we attacked in the first half and most of the second half,” said Hornets boys and girls coach Brent Breckon. “I told the girls at halftime we should have had at least two or three goals in that first half.”
Hilldale opened the second half with renewed effort. Gragg got open in the goal box in the first minute of play and beat the goalie one-on-one to give the Lady Hornets a 1-0 lead. Then just nine minuets later, senior Caitlynn Morgan got open from 15 yards out and hit a sizzling ground shot under the goalie to up the Hilldale lead to 2-0.
And then came the controversy. The game clock was started about a minute late to open the second half, but the referee ordered an extra five minutes of time added with about 17 minutes to play.
“I really don’t know why the extra time was added,’ said Breckon. “But in soccer the referee is the boss and you can’t argue about it.”
The Lady Hornets were still in control until Whitney Chavez got loose behind the Hilldale defense and scored on a breakaway with 7:30 to play. Minutes later Poteau had another breakaway that ended with Taylor Darneal controlling the ball at the end line and maneuvering it in past goalie Nicole Wright to tie the game with 3:00 to play, well inside the extra five minutes that was added earlier.
Still tied 2-2 at the end of regulation, the game went to a shootout with five players from each team shooting from the penalty spot. Madison Patterson and Alexis Gutierrez scored for the Hornets, but Poteau also got two shots in goal.
In the shootout. Jocelynn Harris was up first for Hilldale and missed. Poteau’s Jackelynn Gutierrez hit the cross bar with her shot, but it deflected down and bounced just inside the goal line for the winner.
“We just got too settled with a 2-0 lead and lost our focus,” said Breckon. “We didn’t communicate with each other well which is something we’ve been working on. But this is just our second year of playing soccer and we’re still very young (just one senior in the starting lineup). We’ll learn from this mental letdown.”
Boys: Poteau 10, Hilldale 0
The boys contest was not nearly as dramatic as the Pirates ran away from the Hornets and mercy-ruled them with just over 18 minutes to play in the game.
“I was very disappointed. I feel like we have a better team than what we showed tonight. We didn’t do a very good job of marking up (defending) or communicating with one another and we just didn’t hustle,” said Breckon.
“They had some really talented players and I’m sure they’re going to be in the playoffs. I hope we can get there too. They beat us last year 9-0 and we still made the playoffs.”
The Pirates had five different players that scored, led by senior Carlos Garcia’s hat trick.
“This was the first time we’ve ever been mercy-ruled. After the game I told the boys just to sit and see how it feels and if you don’t like it, that’s good,” said Breckon.
Hilldale will be back in action hosting Tahlequah Thursday evening.