Vikings knock off highly-rated Ottawa Hills, 3-2

Joe Blystone - For the Expositor and Enterprise

After having their seven game winning streak broken in a subpar performance at Bryan, Evergreen got a huge boost for the upcoming post-season by beating highly-touted Ottawa Hills 3-2 Saturday at Pifer Field in girls soccer.

“This was a crucial game heading toward the end of the regular season as far as seeding for the post-season,” explained Viking coach Joshua Radel. “Beating a team like Ottawa Hills speaks volumes for our program. They have a winning tradition also over there and they are good every year. They are probably in first place in their league again this year.

“For our girls after the way we played against Bryan and block that out of their mind two days later, this was huge for our team and our seeding.”

Ottawa Hills was 7-2-1 coming into the match but it was the Vikings who drew first blood.

Sydney Woodring worked the back and forth passing game with Paige Radel, and it was Radel’s laser from the left side that beat the goalie for a 1-0 lead just three minutes into the game.

Ottawa Hills came back with a tally five minutes later when Liz Lathrop’s high shot went off the hands of Viking goalie Skylee Raker to tie the game, but that would be the only mistake Raker would make on the day.

Both teams searched for opportunity for the rest of the half, but it was Kaylee Hein who created the go-ahead goal when she stepped in front of a lax Ottawa Hills pass and fed Radel, who made a right-to-left move for a score with 1:10 to go in the half.

Again working the passing game in the second half, Reagan Radel got a dish to Woodring in the middle at about the 15-yard line and the Viking junior rifled a shot off the underside of the crossbar and in the net for a 3-1 margin with just over 32 minutes of the clock.

“One of the big things we have been talking about with a lot of young players is having ball control,” stated Radel. “Today we were able to find feet with passes where against Bryan I don’t think we ever connected on a pass. Today it seemed like 80-90 percent of our passes found feet. We were able to receive and redistribute. We had a lot of nice touches which gave us the ability to move the ball around and press forward when we wanted and pull it back when we needed.”

After Woodring’s goal, it was Raker over and over making crucial saves.

The junior first-year goalie made a skidding save on Merredith Greeley, then twice stopped Green Bear chances in the next few minutes.

Ottawa Hills got a goal on a fluke play when a bouncing turf ball got over the head of a Viking defender and Greeley beat Raker from a few yards out with 4:41 left, but Raker came up big on Greeley’s free kick with 1:15 on the clock to seal the game.

“We probably sat on our heels a little more than I would like,” said coach Radel. “I had a couple new players in, trying some new things and unfortunately with that you get tested and get tested quickly.

“She just made save after save in the last few minutes, including the one on the free kick. She rose to the occasion; our defense rose to the occasion. Our middies and our forwards rose to the occasion. It was just a great team effort.”

The Vikings have now won eight of nine after starting the season 0-3 and host Archbold (9-1-3) Tuesday at 5 p.m.

Joe Blystone

For the Expositor and Enterprise

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