Through 66 minutes of game time on Tuesday, Valley Center waited.
The Hornets controlled the tempo for much of their home contest with Newton, but the sagging Railers’ defense enveloped all lobs and crosses once they reached the 20-yard line and in.
So the Hornets waited.
“You have to be patient, and you have to be efficient, and then you have to finish,” said Jeff Burger, Valley Center head coach. “You can’t come into a game against a Newton defense and just get lucky.”
Valley Center began to decipher the defense halfway through the second half. With the score still knotted at zero, Hanna Shelton took a rip toward the goal with 18 minutes to go. The end result was a corner kick.
Senior Audrey Stults took the corner, delivering a well-timed ball to Korrie Raney. A thunderous punt from Raney sent the ball skidding toward the goal, but keeper Kelsi Langley fell on the ball for the save.
“I was a little bit frustrated,” Shelton said of the stout Newton defense. “I just have to keep going at it. We’re going to find a way to get a goal. We always do.”
With just over 13 minutes to go, the Hornets found themselves in striking distance again.
Sophomore Courtney Yochum tried to create a shot in front of the Newton goal, but it deflected off of a defender. However, Shelton emerged from the crowd for a short breakaway. A chip shot dribbled past Langley, giving the Hornets a 1-0 lead.
“They have to stay loose,” Burger said. “This is a typical Newton game. I told my girls at halftime that you’re not going to find too many coaches that coach as good of a quality defense as (Newton Coach Scott Jantzi) does.
“Somebody watching is going to say that was an ugly game,” he said. “That was great soccer. He’s taking the talent he has and he’s getting the maximum out of them. I don’t think coaches that do that get enough credit … I don’t like it, but I respect it.”
Valley Center (3-2) clung to the lead the rest of the way, picking up its third consecutive win after beginning the season 0-2.
“Our chemistry was definitely off in the first two games,” Shelton said. “It was a new team with all of our injuries and we lost a bunch of seniors last year. We had to have a bunch of girls step up, and they have. It’s been good since then.”