Twin Valley’s first loss came from rival Leland & Gray in double-overtime. The teams had an evenly matched dogfight during the first half, with little action in either defensive third. It wasn’t until a minute into the second half that Brittany Bills broke the deadlock for Leland & Gray.
Twin Valley did not deflate, their defense applied the same pressure they had in the first half, while the offense got chances to score. Natalie Herrick was the first Wildcat to capitalize, tying the game on a long-distance shot with under 20 minutes to go. Twin Valley would keep Leland & Gray at bay for the rest of the half, and Coach Chris Walling saw a revitalized effort from his team. “They worked hard and the effort was there and they didn’t falter,” said Walling “They (Leland & Gray) took it to us and we were lucky. We dodged half a dozen bullets.”
Leland & Gray would begin to wear down Twin Valley’s defense with direct shots, a near miss over the crossbar on a header, and a cross that rolled right in front of the goal. Time also played a factor, as the game rolled into a second overtime
The Wildcats tried to hang on for at least the tie, but Leland & Gray sweeper Ashley Goddard was able to beat three defenders in the midfield and take a 25-yard shot with two minutes to go to seal the 2-1 victory.
Walling attributed the loss partially to the shuffling of positions in the absence of Savannah Nesbitt.
“You have to reposition and it becomes a domino effect where kids are put in positions where they may not be comfortable, and they’re doing the best they can. The intent was there, the idea was there, and they’re still learning to play hard and work hard with each other. We need to get that effort every time. You can’t fault them, they laid it out on the field.”
On Saturday at Stratton Mountain School, game two of Twin Valley’s road trip would also take extra periods to complete, with another hard-fought game by the Wildcats coming up short.
Like the game against Leland & Gray, Twin Valley would keep it close with a tied game going into the second half. Brittany Lathrope got things going for Stratton at the 20-minute mark in the first half, while Hanna Swanson’s direct kick got the Wildcats on the board five minutes later.
Stratton’s second goal came five minutes into the second half when Anna Witkowski scored on a goal that Walling said couldn’t have happened exactly the way it did again in a million years. After an injury, the ball was dropped in the upper right corner of the box. Walling placed his team in front of the goal in the event that Stratton won the ball. Swanson and Witkowski both went for it, with the ball squirting out to the right. Witkowski took one step to the right and placed a shot in the upper 90, over all the Wildcat defenders and their goalie.
With the score 2-1, and another loss edging closer, Twin Valley kept on the attack. After a swift pass from Sammy Cunningham-Darrah, Kaylea Niles would find her sister Jordan on the right side. Niles took a hard shot that hit the right post and found its way in to tie the game.
Once again, defeat would come in overtime for the Wildcats when Chloe Daly took advantage of a loose ball in Twin Valley’s box. Goalie Brianna Rafus charged the ball and made a diving attempt to corral it, but Daly was able to get her foot on it just before Rafus could get there. On its way in, the ball would hit Rafus’ foot, but not enough to prevent the win.
Eight of Twin Valley’s games this season have been decided by one goal or concluded with a tie, and Walling voiced his team’s frustration. “It’s been a microcosm of the second half of the season for us. The last couple games the effort’s been there, and it’s frustrating not even to tie. It’s not easy by any stretch but if you grind it out, good things will happen and we need to keep grinding. We did well defensively, and we seem to have a little more continuity in our midfield, which is a positive thing. We just need to put the ball in the net.”
All of Twin Valley’s efforts paid off on Monday with a 3-0 win at Green Mountain. On paper it was a game Twin Valley should win, playing a 0-12 team, but Walling warned his squad not to underestimate an underdog, but instead focus on possession and ball control. His team did just that, building opportunities by moving without the ball, creating space and passing lanes.
Twin Valley scored all three goals within the first 26 minutes, with Niles continuing to blossom late in the season, having her foot part of each goal. Niles began the game with an assist, giving Abbi Molner a pass 3:32 into play for the 1-0 lead. At the 10:37 mark, Jordan got into the scoring herself, and added another goal just before the 26-minute mark on a pass from Cunningham-Darrah, to put the game out of reach at 3-0.
Walling thought his team showed great control throughout the game and said the only downfall was his team didn’t score more goals when they had the chance. “Our possession game was probably the best it’s been all year. And that worked well because people off of the ball were moving and getting themselves open and creating opportunities for themselves.”
The victory puts Twin Valley at 5-6-1 going into their final game against Black River on Thursday at 4 pm. The game will be played at Whitingham Middle School.
Twin Valley and Leland & Gray are tied for ninth place in the Division III rankings. Playoff seedings will be announced on Monday.