Wilde Lake picked up its first county victory of the season on Friday night and, in the process, showcased just how far the program has come since this time last year.
Up against a Hammond team that defeated the Wildecats by 10 goals last spring, Wilde Lake flipped the script this time around behind lockdown defense and balanced offense on the way to a convincing 11-2 win.
“This whole process has taken a lot more than a year, but this right here feels really good. We are a very young team that is learning in leaps and bounds and I think tonight we got to put some of that on display,” Wilde Lake coach Michael Rhodovi said. “We’ve had to spend less time on fundamentals with this group and therefore been able to focus more on mechanics and the IQ of the game. It’s exciting to see the light bulb go off with this team … they pick things up very quickly.”
Wilde Lake (1-2, 3-4) certainly wasted little time setting the tone against Hammond (0-3, 0-8), as Lia Carlesi (3 goals, assist) scooped up a ground ball after the Wildecat defense forced a turnover and she raced the length of the field to for an unassisted score just 17 seconds after the opening faceoff. Over the next three minutes, Wilde Lake added two more scores — by Diamonique Service (2 goals) and Kayla Hunter (2 goals) — to increase its lead to 3-0.
By the end of the first half the lead had grown to 7-1, with the Wildecats getting goals from six different players.
“We were really working together and meshing together as a team,” said sophomore defender Bridget Tiffey. “We were talking a lot on defense and on offense we were really spreading out and balancing.”
Hammond seemed like it might grab some of the momentum back immediately out of halftime, as Lizzy Hughes scored her second goal of the game right off the draw. But Wilde Lake clamped down after that to pull away for good.
Golden Bears’ coach Lindsay Kolesar said that in what is a rebuilding season this spring, the focus has been on things beyond the scoreboard.
“Awareness is a word that we use a lot … field awareness, where you are in relation to your teammates or the players on the other team. We lost basically all but one starter from last year, so we’re definitely starting over in a lot of ways,” she said. “We’re trying to get ourselves physically ready to play so that the teaching can occur as we build.”
Wilde Lake ended up scoring the last four goals of the game to create the final nine-goal margin, but Hammond goalie Karina Joseph did more than hold her own throughout. She ended up finishing with 18 saves, roughly half of them coming in one-on-one situations.
“She’s really coming up big for us this year and she definitely wears a lot of weight on her shoulders because we’ve had some games where we’ve given up a lot of goals,” Kolesar said. “But she’s definitely incredible with some of the saves she makes.”
On the other end, Wilde Lake’s defense also had a standout effort. With Tiffey leading the way, along with Anna Boyer (7 saves) making some strong stops at goalie, the Wildecats limited shots, created turnovers and then got out in transition.
Rhodovi said that defense is the thing the team has been emphasizing the most through the first month of the season.
“Footwork, ladders … it’s been the same routine defensively over and over in practice and you can see they are finally getting it. Today, they had to play even harder because there were no substitutions for defense,” Rhodovi said. “What really helped was that our ride was phenomenal, causing a lot of turnovers and keeping the ball in their end. I think it wore them down as the game went on.”
With spring break getting underway, Wilde Lake will not play again until April 23 when it hosts Glen Burnie in a non-county game.
Wilde Lake (1-2, 3-4) — 11, Hammond (0-3, 0-8) — 2
Goals: WL — Carlesi 3, Hunter 2, Pittman 2, Service 2, Moody 1,Tiffey 1,
Assist: WL — Carlesi, Moody.
Saves: WL — Boyer 7; Ha — Joseph 18.