The Madison Southern soccer teams split their visit to Madison Central Thursday.
The girls team defeated the Lady Indians, 2-0, and the Eagles dropped a 2-1 decision to the boys team.
The final in the girls’ game was a relative blowout. The Lady Indians and the Lady Eagles haven’t played a contest with more than a one-goal differential since a Central 5-0 win in September of 2005.
Since then, the two teams have played nine times. Eight of those contests have been decided by just one goal, and one finished as a 4-4 tie.
Despite the change in the trend, the game still felt like a one-goal game when it finished.
“It was back-and-forth the whole game,” Southern coach Katy Cress said. “I really couldn’t breath until about right now. They did a good job, and their keeper (Samantha Shepherd) did a great job. She saved some really good shots.”
Central coach Chris Dunham was also impressed by his keeper’s effort.
“I think she (Shepherd) did a great job coming out and clearing a lot of balls,” he said. “I expect a lot of her this season. She was probably my one highlight of the day.”
Dunham didn’t like his club’s energy.
“Maybe this was just a wake-up call,” he said. “They have to understand, they need to come to play against whoever it is like a team you’ve never played before and it’s a championship game. We got out-hustled. We got beat on a lot of 50/50 balls, which is unacceptable.”
Southern’s defense seemed to be the difference. When the Lady Eagles weren’t frustrating the Central offense, they were setting up their forwards for counter attacks.
“That’s one thing we’ve really been working in practice,” Cress said. “Keeping everybody fresh and focusing on defense made the difference tonight.”
“Their (Lady Eagles) sweeper has a lot of speed and their positioning was really good, which threw us off,” Dunham said. “I think the speed in the back, we weren’t ready for it and couldn’t get our combination going.”
In the 34th minute, Dakotah Gadd was able to cross the defense along the top of the box and found a seam to fire a shot past Shepherd.
That broke the stalemate but started another drought. Neither found the back of the net, despite strong looks for both clubs, until Gadd knocked in her second goal of the game thanks to an assist from Mikki Clark.
Central 2, Southern 1
On the boys’ side, Southern looked to be headed to a sweep early.
The Eagles opened the scoring when Alex Sipple chased a long ball and used the space to put the ball in on the far side, just 15 minutes into the game.
“He (Sipple) exposed our defense on that shot,” Central coach Jeremy Anderson said. “It was a brilliant shot.”
The lead didn’t last. Just five minutes later, Jordan Johnson knocked in a cross from a free kick to get the equalizer.
Central took the lead just four minutes after that. Daniel Parke delivered a goal from the top of the box for the tiebreaker.
Neither team managed did much after that, but Central threatened numerous times. The Indians controlled the action for most of the game and had nearly 20 shots on goal.
“Our midfield was pressing higher and winning balls higher, that allowed us to keep the ball on their side of the field,” Anderson said. “Our Achilles’ heel — we’ve got to be able to finish.”
“It was definitely won and lost in the midfield,” Southern coach James Ray said. “We lost the 50/50 ball challenges there. That’s something we try to stress to the kids. If you win that, you’re in the game in high school soccer. Every punt we put off, every goal kick we put off, they stepped up and won it.”