WALES — The Madison and Oak Hill girls’ soccer teams have bounced back quickly from devastating graduation losses last season.
Oak Hill, though, is getting serious contributions from its younger players and strong leadership from its four seniors. This was evident Friday as the Raiders posted a 5-1 victory over the Bulldogs to take over the top spot in the Class B South standings at 7-2. Madison, which competes for postseason play in Class C South, fell to 5-3.
Seniors Sadie Waterman and Eliza Whisenant each had a goal for the Raiders while sophomore Audrey Bauer registered a goal and two assists. Juniors Macie Fletcher and Julia Noel also scored for Oak Hill, while Cara McCray scored for Madison.
“We’ve gotten a lot better, even since summer ball,” said Waterman, who scored on a first-half penalty kick. “Especially graduating 10 seniors last year. That’s almost our entire team.”
The Raiders dominated the first half, out-shooting the Bulldogs 11-1. Bauer scored the first goal, six minutes into the game, when she squared up a crossing pass from Whisenant. Waterman made it 2-0 after a handball was called in the penalty area with two minutes left in the half. She beat Bulldogs goalkeeper Susannah Curtis to the lower left corner of the goal.
“I haven’t taken any (penalty kicks) this year,” Waterman said. “It’s just usually whoever is in the area at the time. As long as you can keep your head steady, I think anyone can take them.”
The Bulldogs, who graduated nine players from last year’s regional championship team, played better in the second half.
“Whenever a team scores, it shakes you up a little bit when the other team scores first and I think we got a little shaken up,” first-year Madison coach Savanna Lawrence said. “But I haven’t seen a team play and not give up better than I have seen this team and really continue to give full effort all game long, no matter what the score is.”
Madison put six shots on goal to Oak Hill’s five in the second half, but three of the Raiders’ shots found the back of the goal.
Noel made it 3-0 after some nice work from Bauer along the right side that ended with a crossing pass to the goal mouth four minutes into the period. Four minutes later Bauer again did the dirty work, this time delivering a pass to Whisenant, who played the ball off her body into the goal.
Oak Hill coach Jeremy Young moved his players around the field with little fall-off in play. Part of this was dictated by the score and part by a desire for well-rounded players.
“We’re trying to build players that play the whole game, rather than players who play offense and never play defense or vice versa,” he said. “We try in the JV games to have them play all positions. That helps a lot.”
The Bulldogs cut the lead to 4-1 with 17 minutes left when McCray and Jessica Turcotte had a 2-on-1 break and McCray finished the goal.
Oak Hill freshman goalkeeper Paige Gonya made six saves, none better than her diving stop off Grace Linkletter’s shot in the opening minute of the game.
“Paige has a lot of range,” Young said. “We have a lot of freshmen and sophomores who are filling roles left by seniors. Paige is stepping in for Anna Dodge, who played four years for us and was phenomenal. Paige is filling her shoes quite well.”
Fletcher finished the scoring with four minutes left after taking a crossing pass from senior Jade Sturtevant, who moved up from from her usual sweeper position.
“Jade has been so critical and great in the back, if we can get her a few minutes in the front to try to get some glory . . .” Young said.