Soccer is all about finishing the chances you are given. For Patterson Mill, that chance came early on Tuesday against Manchester Valley.
In the game’s first five minutes, the Huskies struck for what ended up being the lone goal of the game and keeper Caitlin Welker made it stand in a 1-0 win over the host Mavericks. Welker was brilliant as the last line for a stingy defense with 10 saves.
“We’ve always known we had a pretty strong defense with senior Allie Wysong in the back leading some experienced players,” head coach Mike Parker said. “Under the leadership of Cait [Welker], Kayla [Barr], Allie and Abbie [Wysong], it was just a good overall defensive effort.”
Following a corner kick, Patterson Mill junior midfielder Ava Wheeler came away from a pack of Mavericks defenders. Wheeler fed a quick pass to sophomore midfielder Juliette Bujak, who put the ball over sprawling Mavs keeper Emma Lander for the score.
As the first-half clock ticked down under 10 minutes, the Mavs created several scoring opportunities. Freshman Emma Penzcek used her speed to get past the Huskies’ defense, but she pushed her shot just wide.
Moments later, senior midfielder Taylor Dadds just missed off a free kick with a shot that sailed above the crossbar.
“It’s kind of been our problem so far this season — we’ve just had trouble hitting the back of the net,” Man Valley head coach Hogan Allen said. “Teams go through that. If scoring goals was easy, everybody would do it. We are creating opportunities, taking shots. It will come. We’ve got a long season ahead of us.”
Allen was optimistic about the effort his team showed, particularly Penzcek. She was seemingly in the middle of every scoring chance for the Mavs.
“She’s a ball full of energy,” Allen said of the freshman. “She changed the pace. She’s dangerous when she gets the ball on her foot. She’s young, so she’s got a lot to learn. She’s a good player.”
The Mavs biggest chance to tie came with just under seven minutes to go in the contest. Penzcek used her speed to earn a free kick for Man Valley at the top of the key. Off the free kick, a pair of Mavs players had an open look at the net only to have their shots clang off the post and go wide.
It was one of the few moments that Welker was caught out of position. The junior keeper kept her goal clean, despite a barrage of pressure from Man Valley.
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She came up big when it mattered, stone-walling a point-blank shot from Dadds late in the first half and covering up a free ball in the middle of the box to preserve the lead late. Her defense did the rest, aggressively swarming the Mavs while entering the scoring area and creating turnovers.
“My defense is great,” Welker said. “They saved me so many times. It would’ve been a completely different game if not for them. This was a good win. [Man Valley] is a really good team. [Beating them] will give us a lot of confidence for the rest of the season.
Patterson Mill 1, Manchester Valley 0
Goals: P – Juliette Bujak
Assists: P – Ava Wheeler
Saves: P – Caitlin Welker 10. M – Emma Lander 6.
Halftime: 1-0, Patterson Mill
JV: 7-0 Man Valley