DANIELSVILLE - Suffering from injuries, illness and inexperience, the Rockdale County boys and girls soccer teams came to Madison County on Wednesday in hopes of seeing their respective luck change, but only the Lady Bulldogs came home satisfied.
Behind the hat trick of junior Nicole Young, the Rockdale girls (2-6 overall, 1-4 Area 8-AAAA) overwhelmed Madison County (1-8-1, 1-5) 8-0; two hours later, the Bulldogs - despite a credible effort - remained winless with a 3-2 loss to the Red Raiders.
"Playing-wise, I don't think it was our best game," said Lady Bulldogs' coach Alf Holst, noting it was just the team's second victory of the season. "We had a lot more opportunities to score goals and we would pass the ball away rather than take a shot. We had too much passing instead of going to the goal."
Rockdale spent plenty of time in the vicinity of the opposition's net, scoring less than three minutes into the game when Young recorded the first of her three goals with an assist from Sarah Kustick. With 28 minutes remaining in the first half, Young struck again, finding herself unchecked in front of the goal on a play that began with a corner kick from Lauren Coursey.
The Lady Bulldogs tallied three more times in the final 15 minutes of the half, with Katie Koch scoring from 30 yards out off an assist by Rebecca Carlin at 15:05; Emily Boyer nailing a shot from a right-side rebound off an attempt by Carlin at 12:39, and Carlin notching an easy goal when a Madison County player had a defensive lapse and practically set up a shot near the Lady Raiders' goal with 1:26 remaining.
And if the score doesn't indicate which team had total control of the ball and the match, consider that Rockdale County also had 34 shots on goal (15 in the first half, 19 in the second half) and had five corner kicks to Madison County's one.
"We came out slow to start and those first 20 minutes kind of scared me," Holst said. "They had three shots on goal and it could have changed the face of the game. But the girls stepped it up for those last 20 minutes. And we also got to get everyone into the game, even the players who have just returned from injuries."
In the second half, the Lady Bulldogs waited almost seven minutes to light up the scoreboard again as Boyer scored on an unassisted goal where she basically outran her defender. With 27:34 remaining, Coursey scored the seventh goal with an assist by Young, and with a little less than seven minutes remaining, Young scored her third and final goal on a shot from the left side that evaded the Lady Red Raiders' keeper and rolled into the far-right corner of the goal.
Rockdale boys coach Granville Ricketts had a similar assessment for his club's performance on Wednesday.
"Basically, we played the way we usually play," Ricketts said. "We got off to a slow start and then tried to make a late comeback. But I can't complain about their performance - the guys played well. We got two good goals and started to win a lot of those 50/50 balls."
The Red Raiders (4-5, 2-3) struck first at the 35:24 mark in the first half, but the Bulldogs (0-8, 0-5) answered quickly when junior Josh Smith scored off a rebound at 27:19.
Madison County's Ben Ortman responded about a minute later at 26:44 and then put his team up 3-1 with 5:26 left in the half. Despite being behind by two goals, the Bulldogs outshot the Red Raiders 6-4 in the first 40 minutes.
The Rockdale defense held its ground in the second half, repelling several Madison County charges, but the Bulldogs were unable to convert any of their own opportunities into goals until Smith sent in a bullet from 15-yards out from an assist by Brandon Story with 5:50 remaining in the match. But from that point in, the Bulldogs' offensive efforts produced no goals.
Ricketts complimented the play of Story, a team captain, and defenders Giovanni Mendez and Curley-Ventura Enrique, and said the team had been quite confident of victory in its pregame meeting.
"We had expected to win this one," Ricketts said. "It's not bad, but it's not what we expected. The team said if they don't win, they'll run the hill 20 times at school. So they'll be running."