Defense, late goal lead Woodstock to victory

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JOHNSBURG-   The Woodstock girls soccer team was having a second half to forget against Johnsburg in both teams’ opening game at the Lady Hawk Invitational Friday morning.

That all changed with under five minutes left in the game when junior Emma Thill headed in the game winner for the Blue Streaks in their 2-1 win over Johnsburg.

“I thought we played really good, we had a bunch of chances early and I thought we matched up well with Johnsburg,” Woodstock coach Mike Golda said. “I felt we played a nice possession game, and our defense has gelled in, so far I’m really happy.”

The Blue Streaks (6-2) opened up the game’s scoring just 10 minutes in, when senior Anna Lopatin took a pass from Mary Grace Mathison and beat Johnsburg keeper Amanda Cherwin.

Johnsburg caught a break when it was rewarded a free kick right outside the Streaks’ box. Junior Delaney Pruitt stepped up and buried the shot to even the score at 1 just 10 minutes into the second half.

Twice within a six-minute span in the second half, Woodstock was given penalty shots after fouls committed inside the box. Both times, they came up empty, with Cherwin saving Mathison’s first attempt, and Mathison pushing her next try wide right.

The Blue Streaks finally got their second goal with five minutes remaining when a great passing play by Brecken Overly and Allie Behrens led to a cross and a winning goal for Thill.

“We knew we had to score early and often against this team and when they tied it on the free kick and we had two unanswered penalty shots I think it just gave up more motivation to win even more,” Thill said.

The goal surrendered by Woodstock was just its fifth goal given up all season. The all-senior starting four in the back, consisting of Leiana Haanio, Ellen Skala, Mallory Bellairs and Maddy Major, has been playing almost lockdown defense to begin the season.

Add in sophomore goalkeeper Marissa Krueger, who made six saves in the game, and you have a solid unit for the Blue Streaks.

“Our whole team upperclassman this year, we communicate well and we’re a close team, it’s a big factor for us,” Haanio said.

The tournament hosts Johnsburg continued its early season struggles of starting off each game flat. The Skyhawks (3-7) couldn’t muster much of threat until the second half, and fell victim to the late goal.

The game, between two members of the Fox Valley Conference Fox Division, did not count as a conference game, which is the good news for Johnsburg. The two teams have a quick turnaround as they will meet again, this time in a conference game, Tuesday in Woodstock.

“They did alright, we mixed a few things up and we play them again quickly, which is the more important one for me,” Johnsburg coach Rob Eastland said. “Now we know what to expect a little bit out of them and will work to be ready for that one.”         

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