For 30 minutes, the Ooltewah Owls had done an admirable job of withstanding Signal Mountain’s relentless assault on their goal in their 5-0 win. But with one swing of her left foot, Ava Duffey finally provided a breakthrough. Standing around 20 yards away from the goal, Duffey found herself unattended, and so she let it fly.
“Ava is just a ninth grader and she scored the first goal,” coach Richard Northcutt said. “It was good for her to get one through the defense.”
But the real star of the show was winger Kara Wilson, who notched an assist to Ansley Lane a few minutes after scoring a goal herself. Even though she accounted for two goals, coach Northcutt spotlighted her defense. As a forward, she is often asked to press when not in possession.
“She’s usually the fastest player on the field, and that helps,” coach Northcutt said. “Being so fast, she usually pressures people faster than they’d think she would.”
As effective as Wilson is, she often is the beneficiary of great service from the back four. Right back Maddi Avery was a particular standout, with her low through balls peppering the Ooltewah defense. Whenever she had a chance to try an advantageous pass, she attempted it and often did it successfully.
Coach Northcutt credited the senior-heavy group for Signal Mountain’s dominance in possession. The Eagles had the ball 75 percent of the time, with all four back line members more than happy to advance the ball forward like deeper-lying midfielders.
“They’ve been together for a long time, which helps them,” coach Northcutt said. “Even in games, if you make a mistake, we’ll learn from it. And if we lose, then we lose the game. If we just go to whacking it in the air, then we’re nowhere near as good. If we can keep it on the ground in the back, we can control the game with our four backs.”
Camilla Mincey had perhaps the most spectacular play of the match just before halftime. She made a mad dash from midfield, outracing every defender before rounding the keeper. The finish seemed almost pedestrian after such an incredible run.
Even though Ooltewah struggled much of the game, there were standouts on their side. Forward Emily Fischer was a stalwart up front. She bludgeoned Signal’s experienced backline as expected, but she also displayed nimble feet and technique when the ball was at her feet.
Coach Northcutt gave his versatile goalkeeper praise as well. After playing the first half in goal, she went out to the field in the second half and displayed an uncanny command of the ball.
“Riley played the first half in goal and the second half in the field, and she’s really good with her feet,” coach Northcutt said. “So she gives you an outlet and someone you can use with her feet. If I didn’t tell you she was the goalkeeper, then you’d still say she was pretty good.”