The first half was deadlocked until 24 minutes in when Arlington’s Rayleen Sherman was able to beat an over-committed swarm of Wildcat defenders and score. Part of Twin Valley Coach Chris Walling’s plan was to put pressure on Sherman from beginning to end. This included leaving Savannah Nesbitt as sole defender in the midfield while defenders Cassie Bratton and Maya Holschuh harassed Sherman.
“We were double-teaming her wherever she was going and it took us some time to figure out offensively how to play without a person in the middle,” said Walling. “Once we figured it out and Savannah was able to win the ball and play it diagonally toward the flags, that’s where we had our super chances.”
One of those “super chances” came with 5:30 left in the first half when Sammy Cunningham-Darrah set up Jordan Niles with a direct shot that hit Arlington’s keeper’s hands and came right back. Niles fired once more but the keeper blocked her again, this time corralling the ball and ending the threat.
A few more chances by the Wildcats came in the second half as Twin Valley started to pick up offensively. Eight minutes in, Hannah Swanson set up Nesbitt for a header that hit the crossbar, and Niles’ header a few minutes later went wide of the net.
The Wildcats defense would continue to hold Arlington’s quick offense to its one goal lead and give their own offense more opportunities to score. Worn down but resilient, Twin Valley made a breakthrough with 4:12 left in the game. Niles was able to angle around an Arlington defender on the right side of the goalie box and float a kick to Cunningham-Darrah whose header skimmed the fingers of Arlington’s goalie. Cunningham-Darrah would follow her shot in a mad dash against the keeper to kick in the rebound and tie the game.
It was a battle to the end as Twin Valley came close on a penalty kick with less than two minutes to go, and Arlington continued to move the ball into Wildcat territory. The deciding kick would come with 17 seconds left when Arlington’s Molly Elwell beat Holschuh around the right side and rocketed a shot directly at goalie Abigail Putnam’s hands that would prove too powerful to catch.
While this was Twin Valley’s first loss of the season, Walling knows his team must improve to preserve their chances of success. “Were having success and we certainly had more than our share of chances. Its not like were not getting opportunities, but when we get them we need to do a better job of finishing. I look back and some of the games we played we either had the lead or were tied and gave up a late goal for a tie or loss. We need to play 80 minutes.”
TV 5, Green Mountain 1
WILMINGTON- After suffering their first loss on Friday night to Arlington, Twin Valley’s girls’ soccer team had an opportunity to work on their offense against an over-matched Green Mountain squad. Scoring three goals in the first half, and two in the second, the Wildcats offense looked in total control, while their defense allowed only one goal on a direct kick.
Coach Chris Walling was pleased with his team on both sides of play. “We were definitely in control from the first kick last night,” said Walling. “Going into the game I said this is a must win, and it must be a win in 80 minutes.”
The Wildcats’ first two goals came with a bit of luck, each ricocheting off Green Mountain players. Natalie Herrick scored for Twin Valley five minutes in, rocketing a shot off Green Mountain keeper Catie Tyrrell’s hands and into the left side of the net. The second was a boot by Abbi Molner from the top of the goalie box that hit a Green Mountain defender’s leg and landed in the same place as Herrick’s shot eight minutes earlier.
The only goal Twin Valley would surrender came at the 27-minute mark when Madi Huntley cashed in on a 20-yard direct kick. With just the right touch Huntley floated the ball over Twin Valley’s wall and just out of goalie Abby Putnam’s reach.
While Walling saw his team taking control and making strides, he also wanted to see his team get a larger scoring cushion going into the half. “You get that first goal, and you push for the next, but two is still dangerous. Three is the magic number.”
Walling got his wish with a play he says his team has worked hard on. Sammy Cunnigham-Darrah coaxed Green Mountain’s keeper away from the net and served up a cross to Jordan Niles across the goalie box. Niles essentially walked it in and Twin Valley took a 4-1 lead.
Another strategy that Twin Valley has worked on involves letting sweeper Hannah Swanson take direct kicks, and with 27:26 left to play, Swanson delivered on a 30-yarder, her first career goal. This put the score at 5-1 and put the game out of reach.
“You don’t typically have sweepers that score goals, but in this situation she’s going to be used more and it’s good to see results. She’s got the foot and will get more opportunities,” explained Walling.
While the Wildcats’ win puts them at 2-1-2 for the season, Walling noted their rematch with Arlington Thursday night will be tough. “I was pleased with the effort, and it’s what I expected the game to be as far as offensive output and intensity- wise. Things do need to be stepped up on Thursday for our rematch because we’re not going to be able to dominate like we did tonight.”
The Wildcats will play host Arlington tonight at 7 pm in the opening game of the John Werner Tournament. Twin Valley will return to action on Saturday, either in the tournament final or in the consolation game.
On Thursday, October 4, the Wildcats will travel to Proctor for a 4 pm game.