Otter girls outlast Windsor, hit .500

BRANDON — Under the lights on Markowski Field on Saturday night the Otter Valley Union High School girls’ soccer team relied on the same formula that had allowed the Otters to win four of their previous five games: sound defense and the scoring spark of junior midfielder Olivia White.
The result was a 2-1 win over visiting Windsor that avenged a 4-3 loss to the Jacks on Sept. 14 and boosted the Otters to .500 at 6-6.
After scoring twice vs. Windsor (5-7) White now has 23 goals to go with 11 assists in 12 outings. But just as critically an OV defense led by junior center back Leah Pinkowski allowed Windsor just eight shots on goal, seven of which OV junior goalie Sophia Walker stopped.
In the past six games the Otters have conceded just six goals, three in an overtime loss at Leland & Gray. Coach John White said a group has gelled that was missing sophomore center back Mallory Lufkin on Friday: Junior Lauryl Blanchard filled in ably there, and sophomore Sarah Calvin and freshmen Brielle Mackie fared well on the flanks.
OTTER JUNIOR OLIVIA White finds an opening during Friday night’s game against Windsor. Otter Valley won the game, 2-1.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
“The defense is finally getting tactically sound as well as (defending) the one-v-one,” White said. “We struggled with that early because we’re playing a pretty complex defense, but we’re pulling it together. You can see it’s going to be tough scoring on us in the future.”
As well as limiting the looks that talented Jacks like striker Olivia Rockwood and Evelyn Page had on Walker, the OV backs also showed good judgment on when to pass the ball out of the back and when to clear the ball out of trouble.
“Before they were just booting it out all they time,” White said. “But now there’s a purpose when you need to play space, when you need to play feet, and understanding the difference.”
Still, Windsor took the early lead and carried play over the first 15 minutes. Morgan McKeen gave Windsor the lead on a play that began with Walker coming out to stop a Rockwood rush, but not able to control the ball. An Otter tried to clear the ball away from the following scramble, but it went to McKeen about 15 yards out from the right post, and she found the left side with 11:10 gone.
The Otters began to come to the ball harder, link up better at midfield, and create chances. Shortly after an OV corner kick, White drew a foul and on the restart set up sophomore forward Julia Eastman outside the box on the left side, but Jack goalie Adi Prior (five saves) tracked down Eastman’s drive. In the 21st minute the Windsor defense picked off an Eastman serve to White in the box, and two minutes later White’s bid from distance sailed wide right.
OTTER VALLEY UNION High School sophomore Mia Politano defends against Windsor senior Brooke McKeen during Friday night’s game in Brandon.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
Finally, at 17:02 White found the net. Eastman won a loose ball on the right side and worked it to White on the top of the box. White took a couple of touches and hit a bullet inside the left post.
At 10:58 White picked up the ball from midfield, weaved past several helpless defenders all the way into the box, and then found the right corner from about six yards out.
Windsor threatened late, but Page’s long shot bounced wide right, and Pinkowski cleared away a dangerous corner kick. The Otters finished the half with a 7-5 edge in shots at goal.
Windsor gained more territory in the second half, earning advantages of 6-3 in shots at goal and 3-0 in corner kicks. The Otters’ best chances came in the half’s 11th minute, when the Windsor defense broke up a give-and-go that Eastman worked with junior midfielder Mary Kingsley, and in the 18th minute, when Prior saved Eastman’s hard 12-yard shot from the right side.
Windsor had chances. OV midfielders Mia Politano and Lauren Konarski did good defensive work — in the fifth minute Politano marked Rockwood well on a Windsor free kick.
In the 13th minute OV was fortunate when Rockwood shot just wide left after picking up a loose ball just inside the Otter box; in the 24th minute Walker used her fingertips to push Rockwood’s long, high shot wide right; and in the 29th minute Calvin blocked a Kacie Charest shot.
By then Coach White had moved Olivia White (also his daughter) back to help at central defense. Windsor kept pressing, but could not dent the back line as Pinkowski, White, Blanchard, and midfielder Felicity Drew (the team’s only senior) all made defensive plays down the stretch.
OTTER JUNIOR JULIA Eastman follows the play during Friday night’s game against Windsor.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
OV wraps up this week with a 4 p.m. home game on Wednesday against Green Mountain Union (10-1) and a Saturday road game at Twin Valley, which the Otters defeated by 5-0 to start their surge. But they lost at GMU, 3-0, just before then.
However, other results — GMU recently defeated Windsor, Leland & Gray and Twin Valley by just one goal each — suggest the Otters can upset the Chieftains.
White said he likes his team’s chances during the last week of play. 
 “We know we can give them (GMU) a game. We know we didn’t play our best game when we played them on their field. And their field is tiny. It’s different here,” he said. “We can finish with a winning record and that would change things. I believe we would get a home game if we win our next two games. That’s what the girls want.”
Andy Kirkaldy may be reached at [email protected].

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