Aas made the most of her first time on the field, scoring two goals and leading her newfound teammates to a win, one that coach Chris Walling believes his team can build on. “Our goal is to get better each day,” said Walling. “Each time we go out we correct our mistakes, and hopefully by the end of the season we will be playing our best ball.”
Aas got her first chance to score with just under 10 minutes to go in the first period. After a sluggish opening, Twin Valley began to pick up speed on offense and put pressure in the box. After a near miss by Hunt went just right, and a header by Nesbitt went just left off a corner kick, Aas found her chance off a Nesbitt dribble, squared up, and knocked one into the upper left corner. A moment of sheer joy, to be replicated in the second half.
The Wildcats’ defense began the game with a heavy workload, unable to work the ball out of their third at times, and dodging bullets where they could. Six minutes in, Jessica Fox had a big save after Reilly was caught out of position trying to boot the ball out of the box. Team co-captain and defensive anchor Hannah Swanson continually put pressure on anyone who got close, and gradually the Wildcats turned the tide.
As the first half wound down, the Wildcats looked in full control, but Arlington’s Molly Elwell was able to find a moment of separation from defenders Mia Holschuh and Swanson on the right side and lofted a high slow floater just off the top of Reilly’s fingertips, tying the game 1-1. That would be the only goal scored on Reilly all day as she consistently found herself in good position to make stops, including a dive to the upper left corner in the first half.
In second-half action, the Wildcats took control of the game, getting quality looks, while their defense worked quickly to close the gaps. Sammy Cunningham-Darrah, Jordan Niles, and Karlee Walkowiak all smothered the left side of Arlington’s defense late in the second half, but it was the right side where the lead would develop. Aas sent one up for Niles to chase down on the right side of the box, a ball she bent in front of the goal where Hunt was waiting to record the first goal of her career with 22:50 to go.
Aas found her team its insurance goal on a header off a corner kick with 16:31 left in regulation. Walling had praise for his new player after the game. “I tip my hat to her. She’s a hard worker, and I’m sure she’s a little overwhelmed being away from home for the first time and at a new school,” said Walling. “I’ll admit I didn’t expect that, but I hope this game builds her confidence.”
For any team, starting the season with a deep roster of freshmen can create some question marks, but Walling kept a good rotation, and was able to put players where their strengths lay. Hailey Howe complemented the more experienced defenders of the team very well, while Walkowiak played physical, scrappy, and fast. Hunt provided a very fast set of legs as well as another shooter in the mix. The return of Nesbitt in the middle was also a great force for the Wildcats, bringing back some of the depth the team lacked last year.
“One game at a time,” said Walling. “We’ll get better individually and as a team, and hopefully by the end of the season be ready to do some damage.”
The Wildcats face Mill River Union at home Thursday at 6 pm. The boys’ team opens their season Friday night at 6 pm against Otter Valley Union.