MADISON _ All victories are good but some mean a little more than others.
The players on the Madison soccer team should have a little more spring in their steps after a 2-1 overtime victory over Villa Walsh on Tuesday, Sept. 12.
Sophia Haralampoudis scored with 5:08 left in the first overtime period to propel the Dodgers. Nikki Cilenti rallied her team with a second-half goal for Madison (2-0-1). Mary Walsh connected on a first-half goal for Villa Walsh in its season opener.
Although they don't want to get into a habit of trailing games, the Madison players showed no signs of panic when they were behind against Villa Walsh during first-half action. Their determination was evident throughout the second half and overtime.
"When it's overtime, it is totally different then a regular game because everyone is tired,'' Cilenti said. "It's not about which team is the better team. It is about which team is more determined to win and who wants it more.''
Haralampoudis' goal was reminiscent of an overtime goal she scored against West Essex in state tournament play last year. She got her foot on the ball during a scramble and outraced several Villa Walsh defenders just enough to get a touch on the ball inside the box.
"I was just so focused on getting my touch out and finishing the shot,'' Haralampoudis said. "I think someone accidentally popped it up. I ran onto it and it was me and a defender. I got my touch away from her.''
Her right-footed shot sailed over Villa Walsh goalkeeper Izzy DelMonte's head and into the net. Haralampoudis, a junior, was immediately mobbed by her Dodgers teammates who were pleased with the result.
The game didn't start out well for Madison, which seemed a bit tentative early against a Villa Walsh team playing in its first game of the season. The Vikings generated more scoring opportunities for most of the first half. They took advantage of junior defender Meghan Sharkey's deep sideline throws and found ways to pressure the Dodgers' midfield and make runs at the goal.
They succeeded in the 15th minute when a Sharkey throw skipped past a Dodgers defender and Walsh ran in from the right side of the box and volleyed the ball into the net to make it 1-0.
It was a credit to the Dodgers that they didn't let the scoring play ruin the rest of the game for them.
"You don't want to fall behind, especially the way we conceded the first goal,'' Madison coach Kevin Lynott said. "You don't let the ball bounce. You attack the first ball. … If that happens, you look for responses from your team. You look for a reaction.''
The Dodgers decided to help themselves offensively to start the second half by changing the stability of a 3-5-2 formation and moving a midfielder up to establish a more aggressive 3-4-3. They also learned a little bit about determination from Saturday's 1-1 tie against Morristown-Beard.
"It was a really intense game and we knew that if you get a goal down, you can't drop your head,'' Cilenti said. "Coming out (against Villa) we knew that if we got the next goal, it would change the tempo of the game. If we got it back to 1-1, we could work on winning the game.''
Cilenti provided that spark in the 51st minute by running onto a Milany Aguirre throw in, fighting off several Vikings defenders and putting a righty shot into the right corner of the net to tie the game.
"There were four girls on me,'' Cilenti said. "I just tapped it to my right and I saw that I had some open space. … When the defenders were behind me and the goal was in front of me, I just took a touch. It was a righty touch and I hit it with my right foot.''
Villa Walsh had three separate chances to score off direct kicks just outside the penalty area in the final 30 minutes. One shot was wide of the mark, one by Villa's Olivia Reo bounced off the right side of the crossbar and was cleared. A third was handled by Madison keeper Ginny Taylor.
Haralampoudis' goal was the first serious scoring opportunity by either team in the 10-minute first overtime period. The thrilling triumph was not an easy one but the Dodgers are learning a lot about this year's team quickly and they like what they see.
"One of the big things we can take from this game is the character and the fight that we have for our team,'' Cilenti said. "In the second half, we were exhausted but we came out strong and worked our best to get that final goal by Sophia."
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