When the Warren County Middle School girls soccer team takes the field against Shelbyville Harris Middle School, the games resemble more of a rugby match than a soccer game.
Thursday night was no different, with the match featuring a number of fouls and yellow cards as the two teams played a physical game. Livia Walker’s hat trick was enough to power the Lady Pioneers to a 3-1 win over Shelbyville and move their Central Tennessee Conference to a perfect 5-0.
Warren County wasted little time getting on the scoreboard. Just two minutes into the game after taking the opening kickoff, Madison Mason found Walker open for a goal. The combo of Mason and Walker would prove to be too much for Shelbyville all game, despite the visitors shifting their defense around multiple times to stop the Lady Pioneers’ top two offensive weapons.
Even after taking a lead so quickly, coach Matt Walker was concerned with Shelbyville’s ability to control most of the action in the first half.
“If you showed up after the first few minutes and didn’t know the score, you would’ve thought Shelbyville was dominating the match,” said Walker. “They did a good job of controlling the ball and got a lot of looks at the goal.”
Shelbyville nearly tied the game with 11 minutes to go in the first half, but the shot that beat keeper Bailey Walker was disallowed because of an offsides penalty. The sigh of relief from the Warren County fans quickly turned into cheers of excitement when Mason and Walker hooked up again.
With two minutes to go in the first half, Mason received a lead pass down the middle of the field from Alana Ortiz. Mason had two defenders trailing her and the keeper coming out to play the ball, so she made a split-second decision to pass up a good look for an even better opportunity for her teammate.
Mason crossed to ball to her left where Walker had come flying in without any defenders keeping her in check. Walker tapped the ball into the net with ease to give the Lady Pioneers a 2-0 lead at halftime.
During the break, coach Walker urged his team to continue playing with aggression.
“We were up or even at halftime against Tullahoma and Coffee County, two games we ended up losing because we gave up three goals in the second half,” said Walker. “I wanted the girls to keep playing and not let up because anything can happen.”
A slip up early in the second half nearly doomed the Lady Pioneers. Warren County came out with aggression, getting a number of quality shots on goal. None found the net though, leaving the Lady Pioneers still clinging to a two-goal advantage.
The lead was cut in half when Shelbyville went on the offensive and Warren County made a mistake on defense. In an attempt to clear the ball out of bounds, a Lady Pioneer defender accidentally kicked the ball into her own net. The goal made it 2-1 and shifted the momentum to Shelbyville’s side.
Warren County had a number of nervous moments down the stretch as fans kept urging the clock to move faster. The Lady Pioneers kept pushing for another goal, but it was the pushing by Shelbyville defenders which drew the ire of most in attendance.
On back-to-back plays, Walker and Mason were shoved to the ground while looking for open shots. The referees never stopped play, leaving Warren County players to take matters in their own hands.
Walker would get the last laugh against her defender when she found room on the left side for an open shot. Walker buried the ball in the back-left corner of the goal to complete her third hat trick of the season and give the Lady Pioneers enough cushion to coast to a victory.
The win improved Warren County to 9-2 overall and kept the team perfect in conference play. The Lady Pioneers will continue their bid for a perfect CTC regular season when Coffee County comes to town tomorrow night.
Warren County will play host to the Lady Raiders at Warren County High School soccer field. The game will also serve as eighth-grade night as 15 members of the squad will be recognized. The game begins at 5:30 p.m.