A new defensive scheme seems to be paying off for the Hillsboro girls soccer team as the Lady Hiltoppers allowed just one goal in two wins to start the week.
Both victories came on the road as the Toppers picked up a 2-0 victory over Athens on May 10, and a 2-1 win over Springfield Lutheran on May 11 to improve to 6-1 on the season.
The plan was to reduce the field for the opposing offense, with defenders Melissa Rufus and Nikya Harston playing high, while Alex Frailey and Vanessa Compton dealt with anything over the top. The new look worked well, as Rufus and Harston intercepted anything they could and sent it back to the HHS forwards, while Compton and Frailey kept goalkeeper Avery Walden from seeing too many tough looks.
While the defense allowed Hillsboro to maintain possession for much of the first half, Athens managed to hold off the Toppers to keep it 0-0 at halftime.
In the second half, Hillsboro worked the ball around to make the most of their possessions, with the forwards dropping the ball back to the midfielders when defensive pressure arose.
With 18:37 left in the game, their patience paid off as Layne Rupert worked the ball down the left side and bent a shot from near the end line over the Athens keeper to make it 1-0.
Nine minutes later, Hillsboro added an insurance goal. Receiving the ball just outside the penalty box, Sally Mattson took two touches to her right and drilled a shot into the net for the second goal of the game.
The Topper defense would hold off the Warriors after that, allowing Hillsboro to score their third shutout of the season.
The success of the defensive effort carried over to Tuesday’s game against Springfield Lutheran as well as Hillsboro earned a 2-1 win over the Crusaders.
The Toppers would hold possession for much of the first half once again, with the sophomore midfielder triumvirate of Kamryn Kiper, Isabella White and Sally Mattson assaulting the Crusader net.
Despite multiple attempts, Lutheran would come away unscathed as they kept Hillsboro scoreless in the first half.
Lutheran would only have one shot on goal in the first half, but made the most of it as a breakaway goal slipped past the Topper defense with 5:13 to play.
The score just delayed the inevitable though, as Hillsboro’s chances finally began to bear fruit in the second half.
Less than nine minutes into the period, Isabella White fed Kinley Richardson a ball through the defense. From there Richardson outran the Crusaders and converted on the game-tying chance.
In the final 11 minutes, White would get her second assist after a clearance attempt found her feet. After beating a defender and a hurried touch, White sent a long ball toward the net from 40-feet out.
Sally Mattson would have a bead on the ball and drove a header past the Lutheran keeper’s right side for the go-ahead score.
From there Hillsboro’s defense hung on for the final ten minutes, securing win number six on the year.
A busy week continues May 13, as the Toppers travel to Gillespie. Their road trip continues on May 14 and 15, with trips to North Mac and Greenville on tap.
May 10 at Athens
Hillsboro 0 2 - 2
Athens 0 0 - 0
Goals: Hillsboro - Layne Rupert 1, Sally Mattson 1. Goalkeeper: Hillsboro - Avery Walden (4 saves); Athens - Kyla Davis (14 saves).
May 11 at Springfield
Hillsboro 0 2 - 2
Lutheran 1 0 - 1
Goals: Hillsboro - Kinley Richardson 1, Sally Mattson 1. Assists: Isabella White 2.
Records: Hillsboro (6-1).