Third-ranked Lexington picked up its second shootout win over a Top 10 non-region foe in two days on Thursday at Ben Stern Field, edging No. 4 Spring Valley 2-1 after scoring an identical 2-1 success over archrival, eight-ranked Irmo on Tuesday.
“Tuesday’s match was an emotional one for us, and we were a little flat tonight but give Spring Valley credit because they played us tough,” said Wildcats coach Chris Fryland, whose team improved to 7-1-0.
Lexington has two more non-region matches on Saturday at home, against two out-of-state sides, before launching the Region 5-4A campaign on Tuesday at home against North Augusta.
Spring Valley, meanwhile, suffered its first loss, falling to 5-1-1.
“That was a heck of a matches for us, honestly,” said Vikings coach Stephen Lea. “I told the kids that there are two ways of losing. When you lose when you don’t play well, it’s very upsetting. Tonight, we wanted to win and didn’t, but the girls played their tails off against a very good team. Nothing to be sorry about.”
Both regular goals came in the first half.
The visiting Wildcats struck first in the second minute, courtesy of a goal by Olivia Stiltner. The scoring play was set in motion when outside defender Carly Holthausen cut off a Spring Valley clearing pass and chipped the ball up the right side where Courtney Carrier ran it down and centered the ball deftly to Stiltner charging down the slot. The senior midfielder got the shot off with no wasted motion and cleanly beat Vikings keeper Kim Newton.
Spring Valley countered in the 35th minute on a goal by Sydney Watts off an assist by Cierra Smith.
That was it for the scoring though the rest of regulation and two five-minute overtime periods.
In the shootout, Lexington’s 2-1 advantage netted the 2-1 match triumph. Stiltner got things off right for the Wildcats with a successful penalty kick conversion after Lexington keeper Sarah Padgett made a diving save against Spring Valley’s Brittany Jakiela.
Padgett was the star of the shootout coming up with three saves on Spring Valley’s four attempts. The only Viking to master Padgett was Lauren Roth. Haley Naughton’s winner on the third rotation and Padgett’s subsequent save against Smith made it official.
The Wildcats have 11 seniors back from a team that went 21-4-1 last season and lost to eventual champion Wando in the Lower State championship match.
“The injury bug has hit us pretty hard already, but this is a veteran team and we have high expectations,” said Fryland. “The goal for this team is to win a state championship. Nothing else is going to make this a successful season.”
Returning all-region players Anna Westbrook and Kayla Walker have yet to play, and Lander-bound forward Taylor Piorkowski suffered a potentially serious knee injury last night against Spring Valley.
But as long as veteran center backs Kayla Grady and Haley Naughton and keeper Padgett stay healthy, Fryland feels he can piece things together in the midfield and up front.
“Kayla and Haley play every minute of every match and Sarah is a rock in goal,” said Fryland. “If we would lose any of those three, we’d be in big trouble.”
Spring Valley outlook
The Vikings, who are off to a 2-0 start in Region 4-4A, started the season not ranked in the Top 10, but have forced their way on to the radar with strong play in the early going.
“We’ve exceeded a lot of the expectations so far, but I think we’ve still got a lot more left in us,” said Lea. “We’ve got some young kids who are learning and growing all the time and are handling a big role for us already. I see plenty of upside for us.”
Seniors Brittany Jakiela and Roth are two key veteran players.
Lea’s team hopes to compete for the region title this season against Blythewood, Irmo and Dutch Fork. The Vikings opened the region campaign with a 1-0 win at Blythewood on March 6.