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Oak Hill sees off challenge from Maconaquah

THE WALL: Maconaquah goalkeeper Josie Pyke (L) stood up to a constant barrage of shots Wednesday night, recording 19 saves on the night, in the 3-1 loss toOak Hill.

BY SCOTT HUNT - shunt@chronicle-tribune.com

CONVERSE — The Oak Hill girls’ soccer team couldn’t have played much better Wednesday in the first half of its match against Maconaquah.

The Golden Eagles dominated possession against the much improved Braves, and peppered goalie Josie Pyke with 12 shots on goal from a variety of players and angles. Meanwhile, the Eagles defense kept play out of the area of goalie Sarah Tucci, limiting Maconaquah to just two shots total, one on goal that harmlessly rolled into Tucci’s grasp.

Still, Oak Hill managed to take just a 1-0 lead into halftime on Tegan Phillips’ unassisted effort with just over six minutes remaining.

Under 90 seconds into the second half, the Braves found the equalizer when junior Jolee Holland popped the ball over Tucci’s head into the net evening the score at 1-all.  But the Golden Eagles immediately stiffened back up, and Phillips scored just past the midway point, then assisted on an Abby Strange goal with just over three minutes to play to give Oak Hill a 3-1 victory.

“Our performances have kind of gone up and down, which is normal because we’re human. We’re not perfect and as a coaching staff we’re not, either,” Oak Hill coach Katie Durrwachter said. “The end of last week, coming into this week, we’ve kind of seen them on the upward stroke with pretty much every aspect of soccer, which is really nice to see.”

In the Golden Eagles’ 4-0 win Tuesday over Eastern, Durrwachter said she and assistant coach Alex Kenworthy challenged the Eagles to take 10 shots in the first half and repeated that challenge to start against Maconaquah. Oak Hill responded by sending 19 shots toward Pyke in the first 40 minutes.

And despite scoring just once, Durrwachter said she and the team was pleased with the aggressive approach.  

“They were pretty excited. We tend to want to be perfectionists so we want to set up just the right shot,” Durrwachter said. “We’ve been trying to encourage them that sometimes you’ve just got to take a chance and see what happens. First half last night and tonight we wanted to see 10 shots, we don’t care if they’re on frame or not, just give us 10 shots from somewhere.

“Then at halftime we’re talking about, great job, now let’s make smarter shots and let’s reign it in and understand angles a little bit more,” she added. “We started to see that a little bit more in the second half. (Maconaquah) also put more offensive pressure on second half, which changed the dynamic of the game as well.”

In hockey vernacular, Pyke stood on her head throughout the 80 minutes, facing 36 shots, 19 that required her knocking it away.

Phillips’ first-half goal came on a heady play on a Maconaquah goal kick that left her inside the Braves’ defense with a one-on-one chance with Pyke.

“I stepped in front of (a Maconaquah player) and it bounced a little,” Phillips said of the chance. “I got my foot under it and I was leaning over and it went straight in.”

Earlier in the half, Brave defensive backs Lilly Scheffler and Hayleigh Cole each aided Pyke by knocking away shots from Phillips and Strange that were both headed for the back of the net. 

But Pyke single-handedly kept the Braves in the game, making jumping or sprawling saves, and racing out in front of the goal to prevent more Oak Hill shots. 

“I’m very proud to have her as my goalie and sad that she’s a senior and has to go,” Braves coach Christa Bargerhuff said. “This is her first year of doing it — she may have done a couple of JV halves last year — she’s phenomenal. She just came out of the woodwork and she’s not afraid to get in there and get it done.”

“She was a really smart player and could read the players really well. She was quick on her feet all the time,” Bargerhuff added.

The Golden Eagles needed to make the smarter shots Durrwachter desired to get the game-winning and insurance goals past Pyke.

Oak Hill defensive back Lizzie Wood played a perfect ball onto the feet of Kristen Travis to start a run towards the first goal. Travis dribbled along the right sideline cut towards the center of the field and put the ball on Phillips’ foot who delivered into the net for a 2-1, Oak Hill lead with 19:32 remaining.

Phillips made a similar looking run and perfect centering pass to Strange, who knocked it past Pyke with 3:01 to play to give the Eagles some breathing room.

“We’ve worked on a lot of give-and-go’s and making runs diagonal and that just happened together and it went in,” Phillips said of her game-winner. 

Phillips, Strange and Carlee Biddle are becoming a triple-scoring threat for Oak Hill and each brings a different strength to the team for opponents to defend. 

“The exciting thing is everyday they get to know each other a little bit better,” Durrwachter said. “It’s been exciting to see them try to feed off of each other a little more.

“Tegan has more speed than the other two. Abby Strange sees the field really well, listen to her when she’s talking to you because she sees angles well,” she continued. “Tegan’s got more wheels, got a little more power to her shot and Carlee’s got really nice ball control. So how can we use those three aspects together? It’s been exciting to see them grow and to see them start to trust each other and to see their defense and the other midfielders trust them as well. Not put it all on them, but try to utilize how can we do this together.”