VERDIGRIS — A pair of goals in the opening minutes by the defending state soccer champions from Verdigris High School proved to be the extent of the scoring Monday as the Lady Cardinals held off the visiting Pawhuska Lady Huskies for a 2-0 triumph in a key district match.
Coming within a 200-second time span during the first five minutes of the initial period, the two goals were all the home team needed. After those, the Lady Cardinals relied on strong defense and the goalkeeping of Jade Graves to nurse along the two-point margin of victory.
Both of the Verdigris scores were booted by junior forward Caitlyn Hanslovan, who also provided the lone goal a year ago when the Lady Cards snuck past the Huskie squad, 1-0, in a match played at Pawhuska.
Pawhuska goalkeeper Andee Sweeden finished the latest Verdigris showdown with eight saves, which is 13 fewer than in the contest last season. In the latter stages of the opening half on Monday, the PHS sophomore twice reached high and wide to deny the home team goals off free kicks launched from the vicinity of the net.
Graves, the championship-tested junior goaltender of the Lady Cardinals, needed to make only five saves in notching her second straight shutout of this season. In the April 2012 match, Graves was forced to thwart four Pawhuska shots on goal in each half.
This time around, the Lady Huskies who managed to get off shots included senior Jeni Hendricks, junior Carlie Culver and freshmen Keylee Kirk and Karissa Hughes. Among the PHS players providing solid efforts were seniors Kaytlyn Swan and Hunter Sutherland, junior Morgan Waddle, sophomore Macy Hurd and freshmen Danae Laird, Haley Mouser and Genie Herren.
The Monday match, which opened 2013 competition in District 4A-8, deal the Lady Cardinals a good start in their quest for a third consecutive Oklahoma 4A title.
It was the fourth win in a row for Verdigris (4-2), currently ranked as the No. 2 Class 4A team in the state, behind Catoosa. The Lady Cards dropped back-to-back, early-season matches to Class 5A power Claremore (in a 1-0 shootout) and 6A Ponca City.
Pawhuska, competing for just the second year as an OSSAA-sanctioned soccer program, suffered its second setback in a row and fell to 4-2 overall. Under new head coach Gary Hughes, the latest edition of the Lady Huskies hit the field running and won its first four matches, including three by shutout.
The freshman- and sophomore-rich Lady Huskie squad fell from the undefeated ranks two weeks ago with a 4-1 loss at Skiatook to the homestanding Lady Bulldogs, who are now the top-ranked team in Class 5A.
Verdigris is scheduled for another district match Friday when it goes on the road to meet the Hilldale Lady Hornets.
The Lady Huskies also are to visit the Muskogee-area Hilldale team for their next game on Tuesday, April 16. Starting time is listed at 5:30 p.m.
Another 4A-8 road test is set for PHS on Tuesday, April 23, at Wagoner.