DIXON – Taylor Harrison and Avery Fox found the perfect way to celebrate their birthday. But they wanted a bit bigger present.
Harrison scored five goals, including the first one just 30 seconds into the game, and the Dixon Duchesses shut out the Byron Tigers 5-0 on Tuesday afternoon at Sauk Valley Community College.
“We just wanted to score early and score a lot of goals,” Harrison said. “We’re kind of disappointed, though, that we couldn’t capitalize on more of our chances. It was just a bad game, I guess.”
“Obviously a win’s a win, and I mean, it’s a good bad game,” Fox added, “but we expect more of ourselves, and I think we just had an off night for us. Getting closer to postseason, we want to make sure we’re crisp and clean and ready to go.”
Fans were still paying admission when Harrison staked Dixon (13-1-1) to a 1-0 lead. She dribbled up the left side, beat the defenders to the corner, and ripped a shot past Byron keeper Izzie McKinley at the 39:30 mark.
“When we can get that first goal pretty fast, then we can kind of settle in right away,” said senior midfielder Hallie Nelson. “We’re more relaxed, we can control our passes, and we aren’t rushing. We can think before we pass, stay patient, play with no pressure on us. We know that it’s our game, and we just need to play how we practice and that we’re going to get it done.”
With Byron packing in their defense – and sending double- and triple-teams at Harrison – Dixon took some time after that quick score to probe the Tigers’ defense and find the weak points.
Harrison found those with her dribbling skills. She scored another unassisted goal at the 17:26 mark, dribbling past the defense and beating McKinley to the ball for an easy tap-in.
Three minutes later, Harrison dribbled in from the right side, went all the way through the penalty box between a pair of defenders and McKinley, and scored around the keeper on the left side of the net for a 3-0 lead.
“I kind of was just trying to have fun with it, dribble through as many people as I needed to,” Harrison said. “I was looking to get passes to Avery and other teammates, but I was able to get it to myself, work it around and just get in front of the goal and get an open shot.”
Dixon’s sixth corner kick of the first half resulted in Harrison’s fourth goal, as Abby Goff launched a beautiful cross into the box, and Harrison tapped it past McKinley with 5:59 left before halftime.
Goff, Emma Evans and Raven Day were the main attackers on the edges of the packed-in Byron defense, and their runs on the outside helped loosen up the middle.
“Finding gaps, I think, was the key tonight, and looking for our forwards when we’d penetrate and find someone that was open,” Goff said. “They had a whole bunch [of players] on Taylor, man-marking her very well, so we had to just take it up the side, and once they’d drag toward us, we’d send it through.
“Scoring early gets us going, because we’re just ready to get the next one, and find a new way to score, and just build on it.”
The final goal came with 21:12 left in the second half, and it was Harrison sneaking up to the front from her fullback position to knock it home. Evans dribbled up the right side, and her pass into a mass of humanity in front of the goal somehow found Harrison’s foot for a 5-0 lead.
It was another example of Dixon’s speed killing Byron’s defense, an advantage the Duchesses used all game long.
“We like to push ourselves, use our speed to make things happen,” Evans said. “Even when we’re tired, we try to play faster, because that’s going to help us get more conditioned, and get ready for harder games in the postseason.”
Dixon outshot Byron 26-2, including 16-0 on goal. The Duchesses had 12 corner kicks to none for the Tigers. McKinley made nine saves for the Tigers, while Dixon goalkeeper Abbie Provo didn’t face a shot.
With a couple of tough games coming up on Friday and Saturday (at Freeport and home vs. Sycamore), the Duchesses liked the chances they generated for themselves against Byron, but know they need to connect on more of them.
“As teams are starting to figure out that Taylor is the main focus of our attack, we want to get more girls open and spread things out,” Fox said. “We need to look to the outside more to draw the defense away from the middle, so we can get it back inside, instead of Taylor having to dribble through everyone. That’s a nice skill to have, but we want to attack as a team.”
Dixon 5, Byron 0
Star of the game: Taylor Harrison, Dixon, 5 goals
Key performers: Abby Goff & Emma Evans, Dixon, 1 assist each; Izzie McKinley, Byron, 9 saves
Up next: Mendota at Dixon, 6 p.m. Thursday