MADISON — In a sense, both teams got exactly what they wanted on Thursday afternoon, as Madison earned its seventh consecutive win and Oak Hill made someone other than Madeline Wood or Jillian Holden beat them.

Sydney LeBlanc scored off a broken corner play in the 79th minute and the Bulldogs escaped with a 1-0 Mountain Valley Conference girls soccer win over the Raiders.

“We’re just trying to make sure we’re defensively taking care of the threats we know about,” Oak Hill head coach Jeremy Young said. “We read the paper. We know who’s scoring. We’re not going to let them stay wide open. … We talked about making someone (other than Wood or Holden) beat us. That’s what we did, at least.”

For Madison, which entered the week ranked second in Class C South, it was a frustrating game that, at times, devolved into kick-and-chase and away from the possession game that has carried the Bulldogs to a 7-1-0 record. Part of that, said Wood — who has a team-leading 13 goals — was due to Oak Hill’s defensive efforts out of a 4-2-3-1 formation anchored by center backs Hannah Nadeau and Julia Ahlberg.

“We tried everything — playing to feet and sending long balls — but their defense is solid,” said Wood, the only senior on the Madison roster. “When we really possess the ball well and do short passing, there’s definitely most of their team back on defense. It can be frustrating, but I think we handled it well today.”

The decisive goal resulted from Madison’s fifth corner kick of the second half. Ashley Emery’s service was knocked down high in the 18-yard box but not cleared effectively, giving Holden a crack at the goal. Oak Hill goalkeeper Anna Dodge made a diving stop at the left post, but when she couldn’t get a grasp on the ball, LeBlanc pounced and popped the rebound by her.

“Jill made a great play. It was really exciting that it was in the final minute,” LeBlanc said of her winning goal. “Coach was telling us all game that we had to follow shots, because we had a couple that we missed down there.”

It was a bit of hard luck for Dodge (19 saves), who was phenomenal for most of the afternoon. On the rare occasion that Madison could attack inside the area, Dodge made key saves and was careful not to give up second chances under pressure.

“We always seem to be asking Anna to do far more than we should, and most of the time she comes through,” Young said. “We’ve got to work on that and ask less of her.”

In the 13th minute, Emery and Wood connected in the attacking third with a one-touch combination, but Dodge pushed Emery’s crackling bid over the crossbar.

Madison generated more shots on the afternoon, but many of those were long shots that presented little in the way of promise. Perhaps the Bulldogs’ best chance at scoring earlier than they did in the match came in the 53rd minute, when Wood’s free kick from 20 yards out hit the crossbar.

“We tend to take long shots, and I know Ashley and I love to take the shots from outside the 18,” Wood said. “When those aren’t working, it’s really frustrating. You just try to work it in and get low, to-the-corner shots.”

Oak Hill’s counter attack held promise, particularly in the first half on fresh legs, and the Raiders (5-2-1) nearly drew first. In the 32nd minute, Halee Lair sent teammate Sydney Drew in on the right side. Drew’s low shot eluded Madison keeper Lauren Hay (six saves) but missed just wide.

One minute later, it was Lair’s turn. On a strikingly similar play, Lair, too, found space in the right side of the area but pushed a low shot wide of the far post.

A corner kick in the final seconds provided the last gasp for Oak Hill, but the Raiders weren’t able to put a shot at goal.

“We’ve been working really hard in practice on our defense,” LeBlanc said. “We knew we had to really get up for this game. It was a really good matchup.”

“When you look at the scores, we had a 1-0 loss versus Monmouth and a 1-0 loss here,” Young said. “These are two teams that have been blowing people out. Long term, the way we played today is going to serve us well.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC


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