Bears advance to face Red Riders

NEW CUMBERLAND – After 14 shots on goal, 12 corner kicks and more than 39 minutes of play, the Oak Glen girls soccer team finally put a ball into the back of the net on Monday.

“From the beginning, we had the mindset that we were going to win,” said Bears forward Emily Bodo. “Having the first goal go in, though, really helped our confidence to hold on.”

After a controlling, dominating, even frustrating first half, Oak Glen rallied past Magnolia in the final 40 minutes for a 4-0 win on its home turf in a Class AA-A sectional semifinal.

“At halftime we talked about staying with it and not giving up,” said Bears coach Sam Paletta. “We were playing well. The shots were there. If we kept taking them, they’d go in the net.”

Three more shots on goal were tallied and three more corner kicks were taken before Oak Glen (6-11-2) put another goal on the board. At the 24:23 mark of the second half, Gabi Lemley dribbled 10 yards down the middle of the field and evaded three Magnolia defenders. She delivered a long pass to the left side, in front of Devon Temple, who fielded it cleanly and struck it to the net.

“I was just trying to look into space and see what i could see,” Lemley said. “She was pretty much just reading my mind and was exactly where I needed her to be. She put it right in.”

Later in the half, with four minutes to play in regulation, Lemley hit Bodo for another goal.

“She’s in the middle for the reason that she sees the field extremely well,” Paletta said of Lemley. “She has good skills with her feet, legs and eyes. She’s the field general out there. She does a nice job.”

Added Bodo, “Gabi always can put a good touch on the ball to make it easy to play.”

The second half of the game against the Blue Eagles has been symbolic of the last two weeks of the season for the Bears.

“We’ve really started to click at the end of this season,” Lemley said. “Our passes are just looking good and it’s working well for us.”

Oak Glen plays Weir in the next round on Thursday at 6 p.m. at Jimmy Carey Stadium. Last week, the Red Riders shut out the Bears, 3-0.

“It was 0-0 at halftime,” Paletta said. “The wheels kind of came off a few minutes right after halftime. We just refocused after they scored and we finished with an OK game.”

With so many opportunities and little points to show for it, the Bears needed the halftime break to review their attack again on Tuesday, too.

“We needed to keep playing hard soccer, which they did,” Paletta said. “They refocused at halftime and came out more aggressive in the second half than they did the first half, which I was really pleased with. I was very proud with the second half. The first half, i was happy with, the shots just weren’t there.”

A reason for that was the tenacious defense of Magnolia. For a team with just two wins on the year, the Blue Eagles contest every shot attempt and tried to make contact with the ball every time it was in their zone.

“We knew that Magnolia would play tough,” Paletta said. “They were the underdog and played that role very well. If any of our girls were taking them for granted, I don’t think that after the first couple of minutes they were. They were a tough test for us.”

Bodo’s first goal sailed 30 yards and the Eagles’ goaltender made a play on the ball, but mishandled it as it rolled into the net. At the 7:44 mark of the second half, Oak Glen’s Desi Davis took a hard shot, close at the net. The goalie got a hand on it again, five yards out. Davis stayed with the ball and kicked it around the keeper for a score.

In the second half, the Bears took six shots on goal. For the game, Magnolia had just one.

Weir enters the next match up against Oak Glen with a 13-8 record.

“We know what they’ve got,” Lemley said. “We just have to get our shots down and we were doing that in the second half. We did better on that and there’s still room for improvement.

“Now, we’re just excited to keep playing.”