DIXON – It took 27 seconds for the Dixon soccer team to get on the board in their Big Northern Conference matchup against Oregon on Thursday at A.C. Bowers Field.
Off the opening kickoff, Taylor Harrison made a run up the right side, then crossed a pass for Hallie Nelson, who slotted the ball home for the first goal in what was to become an 8-0 win over the Hawks.
“We just wanted to come out strong and be able to take it down the field and get one right off the bat so we could get through this really cold game,” Harrison said. “We just wanted to connect
Dixon kept the the pressure on, holding an 8-0 edge in corner kicks over the Hawks, a 29-6 edge in shots on goal, and a 39-7 edge in total shots.
“We knew Oregon was much more improved from last year,” Dixon coach Mahmoud Etemadi said. “When I looked at their record, they seem to be very competitive.
They beat Princeton, so they must be a very good team, so we came prepared. We tried to dictate our game to them and do not let them get free. We used the width of the field and tried to put pressure on them early on.”
Five of the Duchesses’ goals came in the first 20 minutes. After Nelson’s first-minute opener, Abby Goff set up Harrison for a goal in the eighth minute. Harrison made it 3-0 in the 13th minute, spinning to get past Oregon senior center back MyKenzie Beitel and firing a strike with her left foot past Hawks keeper Katelin Pudlas.
“I’m naturally right-footed,” Harrison said. “That’s just sometimes how the ball goes. I just have to learn to adapt to that.”
Olivia Dennison then headed in a cross from Harrison in the 15th minute, and Harrison fired a shot into the upper corner from the edge of the area in the 20th for a hat trick to make it 5-0.
Dixon (11-1-1, 5-0 Big Northern Conference) scored three goals in the second half. Madison Stegbauer scored twice, and Dennison added another goal off a flurry of chances in front of the net off of a corner kick.
Oregon’s defense of Beitel, Megan Buttens, Dylan Burke and Claudia Reckamp packed things in after the 20 minute mark, limiting Dixon’s quality chances. Dixon still controlled much of the possession, but rarely would Harrison get the ball at her feet without finding Hawks players closing in. In response to Oregon’s tight defense, Dixon played the ball out to the corners, then fed passes into the center.
In net, Pudlas made 17 saves for Oregon, diving to deny Harrison on one shot and leaping to push a chance from Dennison over the crossbar in the second half.
“She had a great game,” Oregon coach Seger Larson said. “She has good reaction time. I’d like to still see more from her coming out of the box to get the ball just a little bit sooner. But what more can you want when you get 30 shots kicked at you a game.”
Dixon goalkeeper Abbie Provo stopped all six shots that came her way for her fifth shutout of the year.
“Our defensive line has been playing great, including our goalie,” Etemadi said. “We usually do not allow a lot of goals, and I think that attributes to great play by our defenders.”
Oregon (8-6-1, 2-3 BNC) was able to generate chances, though many of those shots came from outside the 18-yard box as Dixon’s backline closed in on the Hawks’ strikers. Olivia Lambrigtsen had a nice run up the left side in the 27th minute before Avery Fox closed in on her and tackled the ball away. Moments later, Hannah Donaldson sent a long pass up to Madison Byerely, who tried to slip a pass out to Leah Watters charging in from her right, but the play was ruled offside.
“[We were] making sure we put pressure on them and making sure they don’t turn to get a better shot,” Fox said. “Making sure we have pressure on them so they can take it from the outside, because that’s a worse shot than taking it super close in.”
Byerely twice had chances from outside the 18-yard box in the 49th minute, but Provo easily stopped both. Oregon also had three free kicks in the Dixon half of the field, Provo stopping one, the Dixon wall stopping another, and the other resulting in a Dixon chance on the counterattack.
“I was fine with our looks because we’ve struggled in recent games to get the ball off our foot and trying to get closer, and then ending up with no shot,” Larson said. “Today, in a game like this, I was [telling them] you can’t score if you don’t shoot. We needed to want the ball a little more than they did.”
Though the loss to the Duchesses is an example of how far Oregon girls soccer still has to go, a recent two-game winning streak shows how far the Hawks have come since kicking off for the first time in 2017. The Hawks beat Princeton 1-0 on Tuesday and Byron 2-1 on Wednesday.
“This is our third year, and I’m proud of the girls that stayed with it and want to get better,” Larson said. “Princeton, they’re an established program and they’ve beaten teams, like Stillman who beat us 5-1, and we just locked it in and did enough to win the game 1-0. Some of these teams now have to [see] it’s not an easy win. We’re the No. 2 seed in our regional, and just looking to keep building on this program.”
Dixon extends its unbeaten string to 12 games since the season-opening loss to Kaneland, and has now won 10 games in a row. During that winning streak, the Duchesses have outscored teams 71-3.
“Mostly communicating and becoming a team more is helping us keep winning,” Dixon sophomore back Emma Evans said. “When we really bond together, we figure out and are always there. We make sure when someone makes a mistake, we cheer them up so that the next time it can help us get to a goal.”
Dixon 8, Oregon 0
Star of the game: Taylor Harrison, Dixon, 3 goals, 2 assists
Key performers: Olivia Dennison, Dixon, 3 goals; Madison Stegbauer, Dixon, 2 goals; Hallie Nelson, Dixon, 1 goal; Abby Goff, Dixon, 1 assist; Kateln Pudlas, Oregon, 17 saves; Abbie Provo, Dixon, 6 saves
Up next: Dixon at Indian Creek, 10 a.m. Saturday; Rockford Christian at Oregon, 4:30 p.m. April 23