WELLINGTON — One things for certain, Wellington’s girls soccer team has had trouble putting the ball in the net this season.
Those offensive woes continued Wednesday night as the undermanned Dukes dropped a 1-0 decision to rival Buckeye in a key Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division clash.
“We’re struggling offensively and it’s just a combination of stuff,” Wellington coach Kevin Ziegler said. “We only have 14 girls, so we don’t have a lot of numbers and you just have to make-do with who you got. The girls are here, came to play and we played it, it wasn’t like we had no chances.
“We had three to four corner kicks and some attempts, but Buckeye does what it does and they found a way.”
Those chances were few and far between, however, as the Bucks (8-1-1, 5-0-1) earned some crucial breathing room over the Dukes (4-4-1, 3-1) in the PAC’s big-school division standings and put themselves comfortably in the driver’s seat with four league games left to play.
And they did it by switching to a 4-3-3 formation to provide more of a defensive wall and leave center midfielder Norah Barnes room to create.
The move paid off as Buckeye surrendered just two shot attempts — one of which was on goal but easily stopped by goalkeeper Hannah Stacy — and spent most of the game taking the ball at Wellington.
“We actually changed our formation because (Wellington) was playing everybody so deep,” said Bucks coach Bud Roberts, whose team dropped a 1-0 heartbreaker two years ago to the Dukes. “So we wanted to put more pressure up and more control in the middle and just tried to work the ball that way.
“Wellington is a well-coached team and they do a good job. I thought everybody stepped up when we needed. I was pleased … that’s a big hurdle for us for the conference.”
After uncorking 10 shot attempts, six of which were on goal in the opening 40 minutes, Buckeye cashed in its first try of the second half when Barnes blasted a shot from 18 yards out that Dukes junior goalie Kayla Sparks (eight saves) knocked down, but couldn’t hold on to.
It was then that freshman Sophie Barnes went on a dead sprint to poke the ball away from Sparks and into the open net.
“I saw that the goalie bobbled some balls earlier and that was probably just luck that I made that run,” said Sophie Barnes, who has 10 goals on the season. “That was a great shot from Norah and I thought, ‘Why not?’ That was probably the biggest moment of the game for me, because I was like, ‘I have to get this or I’m done.’”
It was a much-needed relief for a team that had a variety of looks in the first half, including a series just before halftime in which Sophie Barnes fired a rocket that Sparks knocked down to the foot of Mera Serio, who had her try sail wide of the goal. Sophie Barnes also had a shot with 16 minutes left in the first going to her right, but Sparks made an impressive finger-tip save.
Sophie Barnes got revenge later, however, and it was the Bucks defenders and midfielders that dug in to make things downright difficult for Wellington in the final 20 minutes.
The Dukes’ best look at goal came when senior Elizabeth Bowman flicked a try at Stacy after one of her team’s three corner kicks.
The result was another tough loss for the Dukes, whose four losses and one tie have come against teams with a combined two losses.
“We’re in games and we’re an above-average team, but we just struggle with scoring,” Ziegler said. “We just haven’t figured out how to make all those final connections.
“It was a battle. It was the normal Buckeye-Wellington game from the last three to four years.”
Contact Dan Brown at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Buckeye 1, Wellington 0
GOALS: (B) Sophie Barnes, 26:12.
SHOTS ON GOAL: Buckeye 9, Wellington 1.
CORNER KICKS: Buckeye 2, Wellington 3.
SAVES: (B) Hannah Stacy 1; (W) Kayla Sparks 8.