WALES — It took one of soccer’s oddest plays to finally separate the Oak Hill and Hall-Dale girls teams Friday afternoon at Fairchild Field.

An indirect free kick from inside the penalty area occurs on a couple of different occasions, most notably when a goalkeeper handles a pass from a teammate or — as was the case Friday — when an attacking player is obstructed away from the ball without being directly fouled. The play is so unusual that Oak Hill senior Rylea Mae Swan didn’t even know it was possible.

“I didn’t even know what was going on at that time,” Swan said. “I didn’t even know we could take a kick that close to the net. I was like, ‘What’s going on?’ I just happened to be there. It was crazy.”

Thankfully for Swan, she kept her wits amidst the confusion, tracking down a rebound chance in the 53rd minute to punch home the only goal of a tight Mountain Valley Conference contest to lift the unbeaten Raiders to a 1-0 win over the Bulldogs.

“The situation with a kick inside the (area) that’s not a penalty kick is pretty rare,” Oak Hill coach Jeremy Young said. “The fact that we were aware enough to do something with it was nice. It’s not something we run a lot in practice, because there’s not a lot of reason to.”

Oak Hill improved to 10-0-0 after entering the day at No. 2 in the Class B South Heal point standings.

It was an odd match that felt like it was waiting to get started for most of the first half. Hall-Dale (4-4-2) came out in a bunkered 4-5-1 formation that invited its hosts to have as much of the ball as they wanted in the midfield while waiting for counterattacking opportunities. In a much more standard 4-3-3, the Raiders did just that and had little trouble winning possession in the midfield.

Where the Raiders struggled was in looking as efficient in the attacking third as they had in the middle third of the pitch.

“They certainly pack it in a bit, and we rely on speed,” Young said. “Once we started to be more patient in the second half, things started to change. … I’m glad we finally arrived in the second half.”

The play to set up Swan’s goal did much of the work for the Raiders, giving them a jumpstart at the right edge of the 18-yard box, just over 10 yards from goal. The centering pass came to junior Abby Delauriers, but her low drive was turned away by Hall-Dale freshman goalkeeper Riley Johnson (five saves) right into the path of Swan.

Swan, trailing the play from the left side, finished her chance inside the far post.

“It just happened to be there, and I kicked it,” Swan said. “It went in. Wow.”

“The idea is just to hit it quickly, because when they’re packing it in so much and making basically a floating wall across the 18 (during the run of play), you can’t let them sit in the 18 on an indirect and do it again,” Young said. “I’m really proud that we realized the moment and took it.”

Forced to chase the one-goal deficit, Hall-Dale switched into a 4-4-2 and the game took on a vastly different complexion. Both teams had multiple chances in the final 15 minutes, the best of which was to Bulldog senior Sabrina Freeman, who found space and a bullet off her right foot that was kept out by a diving save from Oak Hill keeper Anna Dodge.

Dodge didn’t get the ball cleanly, however, and junior back Jade Sturtevant was there to clear the ball off the goal line as it trickled perilously close in the 64th minute.

“Too close,” Sturtevant said. “It was nerve-wracking, that’s for sure. I saw it roll underneath Anna, and I stopped and didn’t know what to do for a second. I just kicked it out of there. I was like, ‘This cannot go in.’ My heart was beating.”

Freeman added a strong header in the 70th minute that Dodge (six saves) caught, and Swan hooked up for a nifty one-touch passing play with Makayla Hilchey — but Swan’s point-blank chance sailed over the crossbar.

Despite all the opportunities for both sides, the one Swan goal stood up as the difference.

“The priority (Friday) was to shut down the defense and then look for a counter-attack to be able to exploit that,” Hall-Dale coach Guy Cousins said. “We were hoping to catch them sleeping in that regard, and we almost came close a couple of times.”

For Hall-Dale, final result aside, it was a positive step forward, Cousins said.

“We defended really well as a group. We played very disciplined ball today,” he said. “It was an incredibly entertaining soccer game for 80 minutes. It’s some of the best soccer this team has played all season. The outcome doesn’t really tell that.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC


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