WINFIELD — On Wednesday, host Winfield’s boys and girls soccer teams swept a sectional doubleheader to set up a more important one on Saturday.
The boys team was up first and took care of business, getting three goals in the first half en route to a 4-0 win over Lincoln County. The girls team battled through a physical affair in the nightcap and pulled out a 3-1 win over St. Joseph.
With the semifinal wins, both teams will compete at home for Class AA-A Region 4 Section 2 crowns on Saturday. The boys will host Scott at noon with the girls slated to battle Poca afterward.
St. Joseph (11-5-1) figured to offer a stiff test for Winfield’s girls and it lived up to that billing. After Julianne Pauley registered a pair of goals with 30:17 and 21:18 left in the first half to give the Generals a 2-0 lead and seemingly control, the Irish’s Abby Lee answered right back just 46 seconds later to swing momentum and cut the deficit in half.
The teams entered the locker room with Winfield leading 2-1. The Irish stayed within striking distance until the Generals’ Ava Hall buried a shot from about 25 yards with 22:57 left to give Winfield a 3-1 lead. St. Joseph had a few close calls down the stretch, but an undermanned Winfield defense held firm.
“We possessed very well in the first half,” Winfield coach Jade Smith said. “Ultimately I’m really proud of my girls, they did an excellent job. St. Joe should not have been a four seed, but somehow it worked out this way.”
For Winfield (17-5-1), it was an especially nice win playing without defender Kalei Jordan, a first-team All-State selection a year ago who tore her ACL in a loss to Ripley last week.
Sophomore Abby Weingart, who also helped fill in when Hall missed time earlier in the year, has been inserted into the starting lineup.
Jordan, the Generals’ sweeper and a seasoned, experienced leader as a senior, won’t be replaced. But Smith hopes the adjustments she has made to the team’s lineup can at the least help alleviate the glaring hole Jordan’s absence has left.
“Kalei Jordan is a phenomenal player,” Smith said. “It’s really hard not having her on the field but she’s here off the field leading and her leadership off the field is just as good as it is on the field. We’ve had injuries all season so Abby has been getting a lot of playing time and she stepped up and did an excellent job.
“My defense — I can’t speak any more highly of them. They come together, they play as a unit, they do an excellent job.”
Winfield outshot St. Joseph 6-3. The Generals’ Christin Walls made two saves, both in the second half, and the Irish’s Samantha Richbart made three.
On the boys side, Lincoln County offered some resistance, especially early, before a pair of goals inside 1:10 of each other late in the first half for Braxton Vanscoy gave the Generals control.
Noah Moss registered the first tally for Winfield (17-1-4) with 22:52 remaining in the first half after the Generals spent the first part of the game pressuring the Panthers’ defense.
Lincoln County (10-8-1) continued to battle thereafter, but Vanscoy found the net twice, the first with 5:32 and the second with 4:22 remaining until the half. Those scores helped deflate the Panthers a bit and from there the Generals (17-1-4) cruised, adding a fourth tally from Tarek Jarrouj 9:40 into the second half to account for the final score.
There was some good and there was some bad for Winfield coach Mike Foster, but in the single-elimination soccer postseason, advancing is the first and only goal.
“I wasn’t happy with some of the play and some of the other play was very good,” Foster said. “I thought Noah Moss had his best game of the season. I was very disappointed with our defense and our passing. They’ve been solid all year and carried us, but tonight they were awful. But you have days and hopefully they got it out of their system.”
Against Scott on Saturday, the Generals will face a stiff test from a team it barely defeated 1-0 in the regular season. It represents a major early hurdle for Winfield to clear in its quest for a second straight Class AA-A title.
“Scott has an awful good team, it will take a total team effort to get by them on Saturday,” Foster said. “They’re one of the top-ranked teams in the state. It’ll be tight.”
Lincoln County did not get a shot on frame. The Panthers’ Connor Hunting made 11 saves.