One way or another, Matt Edwards was going to learn a lot about his team’s ability to handle adversity. The answer he received was positive as Millbrook shook off their first conference loss by defeating Wakefield 3-1 on Tuesday night.
“Last night was a wake up call for us” said sophomore Natasha Fisk, “we didn’t want last night’s game to carry over to tonight, so bringing lots of energy was important early in the game”. Edwards praised the energy that Fisk and the Wildcats showed in the opening forty minutes of play. “We battled for every single 50/50 ball tonight, and we gave them (Wakefield) very few chances to settle down, and get into their gameplan” said the Millbrook head coach. After handling two early shots on goal from the Wolverines, the Wildcats were able to control possession on offense for a significant chunk of the first stanza.
Freshman, Alexis Strickland broke the ice early on a throw-in near the box. She slipped when receiving the ball on the wing, but as she cut back towards the box, there was an opening that allowed her to center the ball on net, and it went upper left to beat the keeper in the 14th minute. Strickland wasn’t done from there as she tallied her sixth goal in the last five games on a set piece in the 20th minute. Lauren Griffiths took the kick for Millbrook, and floated a ball right to the front of the goal where Strickland would head the ball in for a 2-0 lead. “All of the credit needs to go to Lauren there, she could not have placed the ball any better on a play like that” said Strickland.
Millbrook had all of the offense that they would need only a fourth of the way into the game. Coach Edwards was thrilled that his girls were able to succeed on a free kick, but he continued to emphasize that the Wildcats needed to continue to get into the box, and give themselves more opportunities to capitalize on big plays. Sure enough, in the 29th minute, the hustle of Natasha Fisk caused a Wolverine defender to hook her with her right arm. Fisk was tripped up, and it set up another kick for Millbrook. This time, Claire Griffiths had the honors of ripping the ball towards the box, and just like her sister did nine minutes prior, her ball found it’s way right to head of a Wildcat forward. That forward would be Charlotte commit, Brianna Morris who put the match out of hand early with her tenth goal of the year to give Millbrook a 3-0 lead. With the header, Morris becomes only the second player in the Cap-8 Conference this season to reach double digits in goals scored.
Wakefield responded with a goal thirty seconds later when Christina McCartney broke right through the Wildcat defense, and beat the keeper one-on-one to cut things to 3-1. At half, Edwards mentioned that plays like that can “happen at any given moment” as he encouraged his ladies to continue to turn up their pressure on the Wolverines for the final forty minutes of play. Neither team was able to add to their total in the second half, but the Wildcats were pleased by their play down the stretch. Wakefield was able to muster several chances in the half, but Hayleigh Pack, Gabby Sturla, and Hayden Trueheart all contributed to the strong defensive effort to keep it a two goal lead. Sturla, and Trueheart both deflected corner kicks out of the box, and Pack made a pair of diving stops in the final ten minutes of the game for a total of five saves.
With the win, Millbrook moves to 13-2-2 on the season, and they are 9-1-2 heading into the final week of the regular season. Despite last night’s loss, the Wildcats still control their own destiny with two games left on the schedule. A win at Leesville on Monday, and a victory at home vs. Sanderson on Wednesday would clinch a regular season conference championship for the Wildcats. Edwards says that the team’s mindset is to take things one game at a time, especially vs. a Leesville team that has yet to lose this season. The Pride are 17-0-2 with a pair of weather-shortened ties within the Cap-8 Conference, the second coming to Millbrook three weeks back, 0-0. “If we get to a place where we can have fun, and just play our style, we are going to be successful. The “next five” is very important to us, and we are improving on that at the right time of the season” noted Edwards.