MADISON — Cara McGray waited for her opportunity on a loaded Madison girls soccer team during the first two years of her career. The junior striker isn’t waiting around any longer.

Pressing the accelerator from start to finish for 80 minutes Thursday afternoon, McGray had the Bulldogs on the front foot throughout a 2-0 upset of Hall-Dale in a Mountain Valley Conference game featuring two teams bound for postseason play. McGray wasn’t credited with a goal for the Bulldogs (7-4-1), who earned their biggest win of the season to date, but her play was instrumental in Madison breaking a scoreless deadlock after halftime.

“She’s one of our girls who didn’t see a lot of time over the last couple of years, but she’s really stepped up big for us,” Madison coach Savanna Lawrence said. “In preseason, I definitely talked a lot with her about having confidence, being aggressive and really stepping up into this role. She’s done that.”

Grace Linkletter and Lauria LeBlanc accounted for the Madison goals, with Linkletter opening scoring in the 45th minute and LeBlanc adding the insurance 20 minutes later.

McGray’s havoc in the 18-yard box forced Hall-Dale (8-3-0) into a pair of poor clearances that eventually fell at Linkletter’s feet, and Linkletter beat Hall-Dale goalkeeper Maggie Gross (six saves) inside the far post.

In the 65th minute, McGray outraced everybody to the end line to retrieve an errant through ball, cutting to goal and forcing Madison’s Susannah Curtis (six saves) off her line to make a brilliant close-quarters save. But the carom flew all the way to LeBlanc at the top of the box, and she floated home her goal as Curtis tried in vain to recover.

“Honestly, it’s just about scoring and not who scores,” McGray said. “If you’re a part of it, that’s great.”

Madison is now unbeaten in three straight, including a tie against Carrabec on Wednesday. Overall, the Bulldogs have lost just two of their last 10 contests.

“Losing a lot of players last year kind of set us back, but we’ve grown,” McGray said.

“This was big for us coming back from a tough game (against Carrabec), and playing with heart and playing together,” Lawrence said. “That really makes a big difference for us. When we don’t play united, we don’t play as well.”

For Hall-Dale, it was a sub-par effort for a side having spent the last three weeks among the top three teams in Class C South. The defeat snapped a five-game winnng streak.

“We got outworked, plain and simple,” Hall-Dale coach Guy Cousins said. “I told (Madison) going through the handshake line that they earned this one. When you get outworked like that, that’s the sort of thing that happens.”

Hall-Dale, after falling behind by a goal, went more than 30 minutes into the second half before finally putting a shot on target. It was a far cry from the team which opened the first 10 minutes of the afternoon by locking Madison into its own end.

“When people get worked up and anxious, they stop playing their game and being successful,” Cousins said. “You start falling into the other team’s style of play, and we’re never successful playing somebody else’s style.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter; @TBarrettGWC

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