WALES — After a tumultuous first half that had Monmouth looking at a multiple-goal deficit to Oak Hill, Mustangs coach Joe Fletcher was calm in his halftime speech but also got his point across. 

“We got that talk from coach and the calm demeanor was almost intimidating,” Monmouth defender Ed Zuis said.

Fletcher said in his halftime speech, “We are down but we are not out, and if we score first then we will find a way to win.”

Monmouth did just that, scoring two goals in the second half to force overtime, and then Hayden Fletcher scored his fourth goal of the game to secure a 4-3 win for the Mustangs.

Just 24 seconds into the first overtime period tied 3-3, Hayden Fletcher found the ball on the left side and was able to scoot it into the net to finish off the come-from-behind victory.

“We were trying to get a good shot off and try to get it over their defenders and run on to it,” Hayden Fletcher said. “We are all tired, but we had a little energy to get us there.”

Oak Hill coach Bill Worth said allowing the goal was a product of some exhaustion and miscommunication. 

“They were attacking and the defender thought the goalie was coming out and the goalie thought the defender was playing it,” Worth said.

Oak Hill started Wednesday’s game on fire. Brady Bangs opened the scoring by shooting from close to the baseline on the right side around Monmouth’s goalkeeper Brock Bates. 

The goal electrified the crowd and the team, enough to help convert a second goal just five minutes later. 

Caleb Valliere found himself with the ball at the 18-yard marker at the top of the penalty box after a deflected shot. Valliere took a shot and found the upper section of the back of the net and, just like that, the Raiders were up 2-0 and had momentum in their favor. 

“They came out with a good game plan, and they had us behind the eight-ball,” Joe Fletcher said. “We came out flat-footed and we were without our emotional leader, Thomas (Neal). He’s the engine that makes us go.

“We changed our formation, which is always hard to do the day of the game.”

Oak Hill had also found ways to slow down the attack of Monmouth’s Gabe Martin and Fletcher, but only for so long. 

Monmouth got one goal back when, with six minutes remaining in the half, Fletcher took the ball into the right side of the box, slipped around a diving Raiders goalie Cole Whitten and scored to put the Mustangs within one goal, 2-1. 

But Oak Hill quickly answered, as Nico Soucy tapped in a goal from just a few feet away to put the Raiders back up by two goals 45 seconds after Fletcher’s goal. 

“We didn’t really execute what we had planned to do,” Hayden Fletcher said of the first half. “We wanted to take down their passing angles and we didn’t really execute on that and we sat back. That let them get to the 18 and get good shots off.”

At half, Joe Fletcher changed the formation and let his team have it, in an eerily-relaxed way. 

“We put Hayden and Martin up top, where they generally play, and that created opportunities for us,” Joe Fletcher said. “To be honest, I chewed my midfield out pretty good at halftime and they rose to the occasion.”

“He was quite calm, and he told us that he’d bet money that we were going to win that game,” Hayden Fletcher said. “He said that whoever was going to score first would win that game.”

The message was heard loud and clear by Monmouth’s sophomore striker, and nine minutes into the second half, Fletcher tallied his second goal after making a slight cut to the right and putting the ball in the net.

“It shows a lot of toughness and determination and Monmouth pride,” Joe Fletcher said of the comeback. “That was kind of a punch right to the gut, but we showed a lot of character and that could pay dividends down the road.”

Fourteen minutes later, Fletcher secured a hat trick after slithering through the Raiders’ defense, which started two freshmen, and shot the ball low and hard to score and tie the game at 3-3. 

“We started to get winded,” Worth said. “Two of our defenders are freshman. They’re strong and fast but are still learning the pace of high school soccer. I commend them for the work they did, they’re defending their stronger players.”

Monmouth ran possession for the vast majority of the second half and allowed just a small handful of offensive chances to the Raiders. 

“With those two quick goals it’s really easy to get down on yourself, but we had to show that mental toughness and persevere through it,” Zuis said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the people I have on the back line. If we hadn’t had as tough a defense as we had back there then we wouldn’t have won.”

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