A determined group of Wood River High School girls sent a message Monday to the Twin Falls Bruins newcomers in the 4A Great Basin Conference high school soccer landscape.
It went something like this: The road to the conference title goes through Wood River, like it has for the last five years. And defense paves that road.
Defense and two goals by leading scorer Tanner Dredge sparked Wood River to a hard-fought 2-0 Great Basin Conference triumph over Twin Falls Monday afternoon at Sunway Soccer Complex in Twin Falls.
Combined with Wood River's 9-0 league victory at Burley Saturday, the Wolverines of first-year coach Jenni Conrad improved to 4-2-1 on the season (4-0-0 league) and are now unbeaten in their last five games including three straight conference wins by a 18-2 score.
"The girls fought so hard. They played an amazing game and were so focused," said Conrad after Monday's first-place battle between the two unbeaten teams in league play.
"We played so well as a team unit. Our defense was solid. Twin Falls had only two shots and (sweeper) Maddie Bates was all over the field. We were faster than they were, more physical and definitely the better team out there today."
Dredge (11 goals season, 64 career) tallied her goals in the 64th and 71st minutes and accounted for five of the eight Wood River shots for the game. Also applying offensive pressure including a dangerous shot that bounced off the uprights in the opening minute was sophomore K.T. Martinez.
Twin Falls (6-2-2, 3-1-0 league) was high as a kite coming into the pivotal game, after Saturday's 13-0 league win over crosstown foe Canyon Ridge and a 3-2 victory over the tough Century Diamondbacks in Pocatello last Thursday. The Bruins had lost only at Highland in Pocatello 2-1 Sept. 2.
But Monday's game was all Wood River from the get-go, as the Hailey girls (20-3-5 in the series since 1994) notched their fourth straight victory over Twin Falls but their first in conference play. It meant Wood River has a decent chance at the school's 15th consecutive season of 10 or more wins, and a 15th straight state berth.
Recording the shutout was junior keeper Madison Gove.
Saturday, Wood River out-shot Burley 28-4 and breezed to the 9-0 league road win. Martinez, who scored nine goals last season, tallied her first-ever Wood River three-goal hat trick including two goals in the first six minutes.
Co-captain Ashley Hesteness made it 3-0 on a Teagen Palmer pass at eight minutes. Senior Ellen Davis tallied her second goal of the season at 15 minutes for a 4-0 cushion. Palmer made it 5-0 on a Kelly Chapman feed at 20 minutes. Dredge scored her only goal of the game at 25 minutes for a 6-0 halftime lead.
In the second half Martinez got her hat trick, from Dredge, at 61 minutes. Senior Maddie Kate Currie converted a Dredge corner kick for an 8-0 lead at 68 minutes, then junior Shaylee Foley notched her second goal of the season, unassisted, at 78 minutes for the 9-0 final score.
Burley (0-7-1, 0-3-1 league) tied Minico (2-5-2, 1-2-1) by a 0-0 score Monday night.
Wood River, which had five of its first seven games away from home, starts a series of five home games in its final eight today, Wednesday hosting the Canyon Ridge Riverhawks (1-9-1, 1-3-0) at 4:30 p.m. at Hailey's South Valley Sports Complex. Jerome (2-7-0, 2-2-0) won at Canyon Ridge 4-0 Monday.
Jerome visits Wood River Monday, Sept. 21 as the Wolverines try to improve upon their 3-2 victory at Jerome Sept. 2.