Delaware Hayes girls soccer coach Bradd Smiley was visibly nervous before Saturday’s game against Newark.
And he had reason to be. Newark featured Abby Davies (senior) and Morgan Somers (sophomore), both named to the OCC-Capital first team last season.
“They’re phenomenal ballplayers … their top is as dangerous as we’ve seen up to this point,” he said. “We knew we had to shut them down. They have good speed, they distribute it well. So, yeah, we knew we had to know where they’re at at all times.”
Smiley pointed out that his team has had a bit of a goal-scoring problem. Outside of the eight-goal effort in the season-opening win over Whetstone, the Pacers scored just four times over the course of the next seven games.
“We’re very defensive-minded,” junior Emma Vessels said. “We don’t think to score, we think to pass. So, coming into this game, we thought that we needed to look to score.”
The new approach led to a break-out 6-2 non-league victory for the Pacers Saturday at Cornell Stadium.
“I thought our defense played phenomenal,” Smiley said. “(Lauren McMillin) and Reagan (Olson) at center back played well … our outside backs by committee did phenomenally well. We felt that we kept them in check.”
Vessels broke a 1-1 tie when she tapped in a rebound from the left post with 16:23 left in the first half.
Vessels had a similar goal taken away a couple of minutes earlier after she was called for being offside.
“I think it was the frustration that really drove me, to be honest,” Vessels said. “I hate getting calls against me. I just kept working — continuing my runs and kept going — and eventually got one that wasn’t called against me. So, that’s cool.”
Sydney McMillin led the Pacers (3-4-2) with a goal and two assists. Her goal pushed the lead to 3-1 with 13:32 left and she found Maddie Smith on a centering pass with 2:01 left in the half to push the lead to three, which stood up through the break.
McMillin’s other assist came on a centering pass to Grace Miller at the 7:52 mark of the second half. She said it’s something they work on every day in practice.
“You know that someone will be there because you trust your teammates,” she said.
Somers and Davies had an impact on the game. Davies fed to Somers, who lifted a shot that was snagged on a leap by Delaware goalkeeper Abby Weller.
But, Weller’s momentum carried across the goal line and the Wildcats knotted the score 1-1 at the 18:47 mark of the first half.
The Pacers are missing goalie Ahdrin Bordner, a senior, who broke her leg in the team’s final scrimmage. She will miss the season.
Weller, who had two saves against Newark, has filled in admirably, Smiley said.
“Abby, a sophomore, stepped up and picked right up where we needed her to pick up,” he said. “Our defense is playing pretty steady and she has a lot to do with that. She knows the game well, she sees the field well and she can communicate with the girls in front of her.
“It’s made a big difference. We lost Ahdrin, which is a big senior leader. But, Abby was able to step up and not make us miss a beat in that aspect.”
Delaware grabbed the early lead on a Maddy Wilson goal with 24:37 left in the opening half.
Somers scored her second goal on a header off a Myla Yang corner kick with 21:47 left.
Alyssa Griner’s goal with 2:06 left capped the scoring for the Pacers.
“I thought we did a good job switching the ball,” Smiley said. “I thought we did a good job of finding the through balls today.
“(We did a) good job of crossing and keeping it low. We attacked as a team well and defended as a team well. It was a good team win … real good team win for us.”
Emily Dietz had 11 saves in goal for the Wildcats (4-4-1).
Delaware returns to OCC-Cardinal action Tuesday at Hilliard Bradley at 7:15 p.m.