FARMINGDALE — There are three ways for the Madison girls soccer team to score goals. The Bulldogs can play it wide, they can play it wider, or they can play it wider still.

In any case, those pathways to success create enough room in the middle of the pitch for the team’s attacking players to find the runs into space they need. On Tuesday afternoon at Simmons Field, Madison turned to the wide areas enough to produce a 3-0 Mountain Valley Conference win over Hall-Dale, powered by a pair of goals from senior Sydney LeBlanc and a goal and two assists from senior Ashley Emery.

“We’ve been having trouble with our short ball,” LeBlanc said. “We’ve been (working on width) a lot at practice lately, and it’s really starting to come together now.”

LeBlanc scored twice in the first half, once in the sixth minute and again in the 38th minute, as Madison (4-0-0) found itself in control by the halftime break.

Largely, it was a lackluster opening half of play. Players were whistled for just one foul, neither team generated a corner kick opportunity and most of the game was played directly down the center channel with little energy or creativity. Much of the credit for the sleepy first half had to go to Hall-Dale’s two center backs — senior Sierra Millay and junior Grace Begin — who effectively thwarted much of what tried to come through the middle of the park.

It came as no surprise when Madison scored goals after finally breaking the ball out to the wings. Emery made a run up the left side before crossing back for LeBlanc, who bent her bid under the crossbar in the sixth minute for a 1-0 lead. Just shy of the halftime mark, Emery similarly crossed from the left wing — this time expertly curling her offering away from Hall-Dale goalkeeper Riley Johnson and into the path of the onrunning LeBlanc.

“That’s usually our game,” Emery said. “When we start trying to do things different, it makes it harder. When we get back to the long balls out to the wings, we get back in our groove, I guess.

“Sydney always seems to be where the ball is. It’s amazing.”

LeBlanc finished off the goal for the 2-0 advantage.

“When we go wide, we have some success,” Madison co-coach Mike Walsh said. “We also, oftentimes, can go right down the middle. But we were not making good passes there, so we needed to spread it out.”

“It’s the passing thing,” LeBlanc said. “We’re starting to work together a lot more as a team.”

The talk at halftime for Madison didn’t center around much technically. Instead, the coaching staff’s message was clear.

“The thing we mostly talked about was intensity,” Walsh said. “One of the challenges that we have is that we have to internalize the intensity so we can maximize our performance every game and continue to grow.”

The visitors responded with Emery’s goal in the 49th minute. A broken clearance turned the ball over to Emery, who cut toward the 18-yard box and rifled her right-footer inside the far post.

It’s been a bit of a difficult stretch for Hall-Dale (1-2-1), who played the MVC frontrunners in back-to-back matches, losing 7-0 to Monmouth on Saturday. It has not, however, been an exercise in futility — despite the scorelines.

“These are all building blocks for us,” Hall-Dale coach Guy Cousins said. “When you have this strength of schedule this early on, you get tested really early. It gives you the opportunity to take a look and evaluate, ‘Where do we want to go from here?'”

Hall-Dale’s freshman keeper Johnson was outstanding against Madison, turning in three diving saves at the post as part of her nine-save effort.

“We defend first. That’s what you do first — get the ball away from the other team and try not to give up good shooting opportunities,” Cousins said. “When you defend and defend well, good things can happen from that.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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