Strong defense gave the Wood River High School girls’ soccer team a chance to tie or win their Great Basin Conference battle against the two-time defending league champion Twin Falls Bruins Wednesday.
But the Wolverines (0-2-0, 0-1-0 league) are still struggling to find an offensive spark—and it didn’t help that the Twin Falls defense led by senior Carolyn Hernandez was just too fast and seemingly impenetrable on the big Hailey field.
Twin Falls (2-1-0, 2-0-0) scored the deciding goal on a penalty kick by senior Madeline Watkins in the 28th minute and held on for a 2-1 league win. The Bruins out-shot Wood River 7-2 in a close-to-the-vest clash with few uncontested runs down the field. Twin Falls had two corner kicks, Wood River none.
Sophomore striker Lindsey Williams slipped behind the Hailey defense and curled a high shot off the far post and into the goal for a 1-0 Twin Falls lead at 11 minutes. Wood River equalized five minutes later after a Samantha Sutton direct kick that another junior, Lucy Brannon, punched home.
It was a cause for Wood River celebration, since Twin Falls came into the early-season grudge match with four straight shutouts by a combined 13-0 score over its biggest league rival in the Basin.
Wood River played a better all-around game after halftime and nearly tied the game in the 71st minute. Strong-footed midfielder Sutton pounded a direct kick from just outside the box, following a Bruins handball. Well-struck and accurate, the kick careened off the crossbar and bounced away.
Twin Falls, a 3-0 loser to Rocky Mountain and 4-0 winner over Canyon Ridge in its first two games, might have added to its winning margin if not for Hailey senior goalkeeper Laurel Gaeddert. She made two dazzling saves on runs down the wing by Bruins senior Rebecca Behrens.
Otherwise it was a duel owned by the back lines—defenders Timber Kelly, Julisa Vega, Olivia Thornton and Kenya Schott for Wood River, along with Hernandez, Peyton Karl, Sabrina Tarchione, Hannah Greenawald and Tiana Thueson for the Bruins.
Wood River coach Jenni Conrad liked the effort put forth by her young team with its two seniors, 11 juniors and five sophomores. Twin Falls relied greatly on its four seniors including keeper Allison Simmons. The Bruins have six juniors and three sophomores.
Conrad said, “It is a great group of girls. Their attitude and work ethic is the best I’ve seen in my five years of coaching (the Wood River program). And today, we played the best zone defense we’ve played as a team since I’ve been here.
“This (Twin Falls) is a team we could have beaten. But we couldn’t connect with our passes through the middle until late in the game when we started to get our diagonal passes through. The Twin Falls defense is fast and we couldn’t get the ball behind them.
“We were more aggressive in the second half and worked well together as far as communicating. We’ve had two tough games to start with, and our fitness is about two weeks behind because of the fires and that has had a big impact. It is what it is. We’ll keep working.”
Wood River gets back to work and seeks its first win Monday, Sept. 9 with a home game against Burley. The Bobcats lost 7-2 at Canyon Ridge Wednesday and also fell to Pocatello 3-1 in their first game.