WINTHROP — K.K. Wills isn’t much for answering questions. The Bulldog striker would prefer to let her play on the pitch do all the talking.

Mission accomplished.

The Hall-Dale sophomore was the hat trick hero Wednesday afternoon, scoring twice in a wide-open second half to lead the Bulldogs to a 5-4 Mountain Valley Conference win over Winthrop. The Ramblers, the top seed in the Class C South regional standings entering the day, got two goals from senior Aaliyah WilsonFalcone, but they weren’t enough to overcome Wills or senior Madisyn Smith’s two goals.

Winthrop’s Aaliyah WilsonFalcone, center, gets sandwiched between Hall-Dale goalkeeper Bethany Ives and defender Kayla Lee during a Mountain Valley Conference game Wednesday in Winthrop. Ives made the save. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

“It feels pretty good,” Wills said of her first career three-goal day. “This is probably the biggest win we’re going to have all season. That was a really good game for us.”

Six goals were scored after the break, with Hall-Dale (5-1-0) holding a viciously opportunistic Winthrop counterattack at bay as much as it could.

In the end, the Bulldogs did enough to hand the Ramblers (4-1-1) their first loss of the season.

“It was a shootout for sure, and we fortunately were on the upper end of that today,” Hall-Dale coach Guy Cousins said. “Any day’s an important win, especially when it comes to us being able to play the game and the style that we want and not play to somebody else’s pace or style. We worked hard on our possession stuff, and we did tremendously well today at times.

“We weren’t able to do 80 minutes of it, but we got the minutes in to be able to get the goals that we got.”

There were two significant turns in the contest, one in which a 30-minute earlier than scheduled kick-off seemed apropos for two teams that never let up through the final whistle.

Trailing 2-nil just 12 minutes in, Winthrop pulled one back a minute before halftime and got the equalizer just two minutes into the second half.

Hall-Dale — or, more precisely, Wills — answered. Wills scored twice in a span of two minutes to give the Bulldogs the lead for good. She took a deft through ball from Smith that pierced a shorthanded Rambler back four for the first, and she barreled down on a loose ball in the box to punch home the second.

“We know how we can play. It doesn’t faze us,” Wills said of Winthrop’s battle back from the early deficit. “We just have to play our game and not let what they can do control how we’re going to end up playing.”

“(Wills) has got a head for the goal,” Cousins said. “She’s coming off an injury in the summer, and she’s really beginning to understand her role as a center striker. … She’s a student of the game, so she’s a quick learner and incorporating some things into her game. She works hard and it’s good to see her experience the fruits of her labor with that work.”

Hall-Dale goalie Bethany Ives, left, blocks a shot by Winthrop’s Aaliyah WilsonFalcone during a Mountain Valley Conference game Wednesday in Winthrop. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Ph Buy this Photo

WilsonFalcone scored the first of her two goals in the 63rd minute, but Smith answered a minute later to build back the two-goal lead for the visitors.

There were no easy final moments for Hall-Dale in seeing out the win, however. Wilson-Falcone scored off the dribble in the 78th minute, and the Bulldogs were just one more viciously speedy counter-attack — a Winthrop staple — from watching three different two-goal leads evaporate into the autumn afternoon.

“We didn’t quite quit. We came storming back,” said Winthrop coach Mark Carey, whose team was without senior back Natalie Frost. “We’ve got a habit of coming back. We’re not afraid to come back, despite the fact we were missing some players today and had people playing out of position. For the most part, those ladies did a nice job. (Hall-Dale) just had a little bit more gumption at the end of us, and they ended up beating us.”

 


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