By Dennis Glade
WASHINGTON — The Washington girls soccer team won its sixth straight game Saturday and the offense appears to be finding its rhythm at the right time.
The Hatchets (7-3-1) defeated Forest Park 5-3 Saturday morning at the Sports Complex behind a balanced offense attack that saw five different players score a goal.
An issue with Washington's play this season has been slow starts, but junior Mikayla Richardson made sure the Hatchets started quickly. Richardson gave Washington a 1-0 lead with her goal in the 17th minute off sophomore Emily Mahan's cross from the left corner. 12 minutes later, Mahan scored a goal of her own when she fired a shot from in front of goal past Forest Park goaltender Tabitha Steckler to extend the lead to 2-0 at halftime.
"Offensively we played well looking for shots and working hard," said Washington coach Stacy Bryant. "Attack wise we did well and that's something we had been working on this past week."
The Washington lead didn't last for long in the second half. Forest Park freshman Madisyn Hunt scored two goals in a two-minute span early in the second half to tie the score at two.
"We have trouble adjusting to the differences of teams on the field," Bryant said. "When we face a player like No. 25 (Hunt) who is strong and very fast — probably if not the fastest, one of the top two or three that we will face all year long. We didn't seem to adjust to playing her as opposed to any other players. We got burnt a few times when the ball went to the right spot at the right time and she looks like she's All-World. We had a hard time adjusting to that one player with that speed and that strength that was faster and stronger than the people we had there."
Forest Park grabbed moment, but it didn't last long. Sophomore Shylah Sama scored when she moved past Forest Park senior Madi Boeglin to the right of the goal and Boeglin went down with an apparent knee injury. Sama got three shots on goal. The first two were blocked, but she found the back of the net on the third attempt to give Washington a 3-2 lead in the 46th minute.
The Hatchets protected the one-goal lead for 21 minutes when they got an insurance goal from senior Lupe Perez with an assist from Olivia Sherman. 18 seconds after Perez's goal, Sherman scored a goal of her own on a penalty kick to push the lead to 5-2.
"That's always a test, it's easier to be in good mind and good spirits when things go your way, but here we were against Forest Park with the game tied and they have the momentum," Bryant said. "It was a test and I thought we came out and the girls in a positive way chewed on each other enough that we didn't quit. I was proud of how we responded today."
Forest Park cut the lead to 5-3 with just over seven minutes to play in regulation when Rachel Lueken put a penalty kick past Washington senior goalie Ally Hunsinger. With 2:33 to play in the contest, Hunsinger left with what Bryant called a twisted knee and Hunsinger was replaced by Richardson for the rest of the game. Hunsinger is expected back when the Hatchets play at Jasper tonight.
With the victory, Washington has won six in a row and have a record of 7-1-1 since starting the season 0-2. Bryant likes where his team is at this point in the season, but he still sees room for improvement over the last five games of the regular season.
"I told the girls a story — soccer sometimes is like a tiny blanket, if you cover your feet up because your feet are cold then your shoulders get cold and then your feet get cold again," Bryant said. "That's the way it's been for us, we focused the last week on scoring, because our defense hadn't been giving up too many goals. We got more scoring, but then our defense struggled today. That's a rubix cube for us right now that we have to solve, but right now it feels like sleeping with a small blanket."