Junior Julianna Bonner, who scored twice Monday night, talks about the Wildecats' 2-0 win over Reservoir. (Kyle Stackpole / BSMG)
The Wilde Lake girls soccer team hadn't been challenged before Monday night's game against Reservoir.
The Wildecats outscored their opponents, 25-2, en route to starting the season 5-0. They scored at least three times in every game. In county play, they held Oakland Mills and Centennial scoreless and netted a combined 13 goals.
But Wilde Lake's 2-0 home win over Reservoir was a physical, back-and-fourth affair. Goalkeeper Jenna Hutchison referred to it as a "battle" in the postgame huddle. Coach Megan Shea praised her team's toughness despite its youth and lack of size.
The Wildecats' aggressiveness and stout defense kept Reservoir off the board, while junior Julianna Bonner (two goals) provided all the scoring her squad needed to stay undefeated.
"There was no dull moment in that game. They pressured us from the get-go all the way through the end of the game, so I'm really proud with how we responded," Shea said. "For the first five games, we've kind of been in control from the beginning, but we definitely had to fight for this one."
Reservoir coach Phil Ranker lauded his team on how it kept the ball moving throughout the match. By his estimation, the Gators (2-2, 5-2) controlled 60 percent of the possession in the first half. Until that point, they had executed their game plan.
Yet as the halftime buzzer sounded, Reservoir was held scoreless and had given up as many goals (two) as it allowed in the opening six games combined.
"I told the girls at the end," Ranker said, "that this is the epitome of what happens when a team finishes chances."
Wilde Lake (3-0, 6-0) received its first quality scoring chance when it earned a corner kick in the 31st minute. As junior Lily Dunbar was lining up to serve the ball into the box, Bonner went through the lists of questions she asks herself whenever faced with a scoring opportunity.
Is she in the best space to shoot? Where should she direct her attempt? Does a teammate have a better look?
Bonner pondered the first two questions while standing in a crowded 18-yard box in front of Reservoir's net. She concluded it was best for her to move right in front of the goal. From that position, she could beat freshman goalkeeper Lizzie Dudzinski in either direction.
With the ball in flight, Bonner weaved her way to exactly where she wanted to go, jumped and directed her header toward the far post. Dudzinski (five saves) had no chance to make the stop. Bonner, who scored a county-best 15 goals a season ago, raised both of her arms in the air before high-fiving a teammate to celebrate the Wildecats' early advantage.
"Julianna is a really special player," Shea said. "She's one that has so much confidence in herself as well as her teammates, so everybody knows when she gets the ball, shes going to go to goal."
But on Monday, Bonner didn't have much success penetrating Reservoir's defensive third by herself. She instead relied on her teammates to find her in ideal scoring situations, then placed her attempt where Dudzinski couldn't save it.
It worked off a set piece early on, and it was successful in the run of play just a few minutes before intermission.
The sequence for the second goal — which Ranker called a "back breaker" — began with Reservoir junior Kate Hyde controlling the ball in the Gators' half of the field. But she held onto possession too long, allowing Wildecats' sophomore Autumn Wright to steal the ball. Shortly after, she sent a cross that Bonner calmly finished to double Wilde Lake's lead.
"They say a striker should go 75 minutes without a chance and then when they get one, they need to put it away," Ranker said. "And [Bonner] certainly did tonight, so I give her credit."
Reservoir denied Bonner's bid for a hat trick, and for the most part shut down Wilde Lake's attack over the final 40 minutes. The Wildecats' best scoring opportunity during that time came with about 13 minutes to play. They produced two attempts, both on goal, that the Gators were able to clear away.
However, their stingy defensive performance didn't impact the final result. Ranker's team managed 10 shots and couldn't beat Hutchison (six saves) in net. The Gators had seven shots on goal and came up empty.
Monday's game, Ranker said, would be won in the midfield, but that wasn't the case. Wilde Lake won its sixth straight game by capitalizing on its best scoring opportunities, while Reservoir was left wondering what would have happened if the Gators had executed theirs.
"The biggest key for our game [Monday] was our defense," Bonner said. "In the second half we didn't have any goals, but they were really solid, and they made sure that nothing happened, so that was really good."