LITCHFIELD — One missed penalty stroke this season was enough for Lexi Fuller.
The Oak Hill senior defender missed her most recent opportunity from the line, but Friday, against Lisbon, she had her chance for redemption and buried it.
Fuller’s goal with 2:09 to play in the first half doubled Oak Hill’s lead. The Raiders tacked on another in the second half and held off a hard-charging Lisbon team for a 3-0 win in a key MVC showdown at the Carrie Ricker School.
“They came alive in the second half and it was a great battle between the two teams,” Oak Hill coach Betsy Gilbert said. “That’s crucial. That’s what I’ve been talking to the girls about all season. We’ve been a first-half team all season, but we can’t wait that long. We have to attack first.”
Fuller’s goal was the turning point in the game. Oak Hill dominated early and struck for a quick goal, but Lisbon was starting to regain momentum. Instead, it was Oak Hill that got the ball into the offensive circle and forced two consecutive shots on the cage. The second caromed off a defender’s leg as it was about to cross the goal line, which is an automatic foul.
Any player on the team is allowed to take the stroke, but, despite her miss earlier in the week, Gilbert went back to Fuller.
“At the last game, she had another stroke, and she didn’t get it,” Gilbert said. “I was debating back and forth, and then I said, ‘No way, she’s my girl I’m sticking with all year long.’ I believe in her, that she’s going to put it in.”
“I missed last time, and it got in my head,” Fuller said. “I told myself I needed to score, but not to psych myself out over it. Just push it through and flick it hard.”
The ball slipped past Lisbon keeper Mikaylia Harnden and into the left side of the cage, putting the host Raiders ahead 2-0.
“It was important to me, since I play defense,” Fuller said. “I was like, ‘We need to get this in.’ Once we score, we’re in offensive mode.”
Lisbon recharged at the half, and came out flying to begin the final frame, forcing Oak Hill keeper Mackenzie Thibeault into action. Only a sophomore, Thibeault stopped everything the Greyhounds threw her way.
“She’s put in the work this year,” Gilbert said. “She’s a pretty shy kid, you never really know how she’s going to come out. It was great to see her play the game of her life today. I don’t know how many she knocked down, but there was a few there, and there were some blasts there at the end. She was on the ground and up in the air. No matter where the shot was coming, she was there. We’re super proud of that kid.”
“I don’t know if we just need a jump start or what, but we just did not start well, and in the second half, our goal was to try and outplay them, possess more. I don’t think we played all that hard in the first half, and that was the difference. They beat us to the ball, we kind of watched them, looked a little intimidated at times.”
After withstanding Lisbon’s early onslaught, Oak Hill started to tilt the field back in its direction.
“We knew today defense needed to hold strong,” Fuller said. “Everyone, even on the forward line, played great defensively. We all pushed through.”
In the waning minutes of the game, Kiera Young added the final salvo on a feed from Mercedes Pease to finish the game.
“Out of my 10 field players, nine of them have scored multiple goals already,” Gilbert said. “That’s what I love about this group. They are one team, they are one unit, they are all working together. They just have that connection with each other.”
Pease netted the game’s first goal, just 5:54 in when she finished on a scramble in front of Harnden.
“I was really excited we got the first one,” Pease said. “We knew coming into the game we needed to be the ones to get the first one, to really set the pace for the entire game. Both teams did really well, it was just getting that first goal so soon, it gave us the drive, the extra drive that we needed.”