Verdigris girls claim another district title
After defeating Victory Christian 2-0 Monday and following up with a 4-0 triumph over Skiatook Tuesday in a final tune-up before the playoffs, the Verdigris girls completed the regular season with a 13-2 record and riding a 10-game winning streak, all shutouts.
Following their Class 4A state championship in 2018 and state final appearance in 2019, Verdigris moved down to the newly created Class 3A during the brief 2020 season (before it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic).
Now, with most of the players who contributed to that recent success no longer on the team, the Cardinals are dominating their new class, winning District 3A-3 with a perfect 8-0 record while outscoring opponents by a combined 65-0.
“We had seven seniors last year that graduated and they were all starters, so when we were coming into this season, we weren’t real sure what to expect,” said Verdigris coach Stacy Risenhoover. “But when we got to the Stillwater tournament (March 25-26) and we watched them fight and claw, and the grit that this little team ended up having, it really excited me. I didn’t know for sure if we would have that, but they have really come into their own and played well together. They’re always positive and they work really, really hard.”
With their only losses coming against 6A squads Stillwater and Moore in that tournament, Verdigris should be considered one of the teams to beat in the 3A playoffs that begin next week. That’s despite having an inexperienced squad that has just three senior starters, but Lexy Borgstadt, Lauren Bulcroft and Grace Barnard have been crucial contributors, on and off the pitch.
“Our three seniors that start for us are really great leaders,” Risenhoover said. “On the field, they work really hard, they’re very positive towards everyone on the team. Not having a season last year, you’re not working with one freshman class, you’re working with sophomores that are like freshmen and everybody’s young and everybody’s learning, but our young kids have stepped in and done a fabulous job. I’m looking forward to seeing what we do in the playoffs.
“I think they might feel a little bit of pressure, because our expectations are very, very high of them, and they have to fill big shoes, but I feel like in the last couple of weeks, everybody has had a chance to gel.”
Bulcroft leads the way offensively, compiling 38 goals, along with 10 assists. Junior Maribel Shaddix is also heavily involved with the attack, helping get the ball to Bulcroft and racking up the assists, while Borgstadt has chipped in with nine goals and six assists from her defensive midfield position.
“Most nights, she’s getting double-teamed pretty hard,” Risenhoover said of Bulcroft. “She’s been doing a great job. And Maribel is just such a great distributor of the ball. She makes some of the best passes. She’s really contributed a lot this year.”
Borgstadt, center midfielder Barnard and especially sophomore defender Abagayle Barnes have each played a huge role in the Cardinals’ defensive excellence that has seen them allow just six goals all season and none in the past 10 games.
“When people watch her play, they’re amazed,” Risenhoover said of Barnes. “She’s the full package – she’s got speed, she’s got finesse, the whole thing. Phenomenal player.”
East Central boys enter playoffs on high note
With their 2-0 triumph over Claremore Monday, the East Central boys won their seventh straight to clinch yet another district championship, going a perfect 7-0 to claim the District 5A-4 title.
The Cardinals, who completed the regular season with a 10-3 record, with all their losses coming to Class 6A teams, have outscored district opponents by a combined 15-2. They will host a first-round playoff game next week.
East Central reached four consecutive 5A semifinals from 2013-16 before finally reaching the state final in 2017 and again in 2018, losing both times to Bishop Kelley, before falling to Kelley again in the 2019 quarterfinals. The Cardinals are hoping for a different outcome this time around, but unlike several of those other seasons, they have a young team that has never experienced playoff success and are not necessarily considered one of the favorites this year.
“We’ll be a 1-seed and get to host playoff games and you can’t ask for much more,” coach Connor Whitham said. “We’re a young team. None of these guys played last year, obviously because of Covid, but I had all seniors, also. So we’re a young team and we’ve grown and we’ve taken some lumps this year, but it made us get better. I am more proud of this team than some of the teams I’ve had in the past, that have gone to the finals, because these guys have had to work harder for it. I’m proud of our guys, our program, to be able to put ourselves in this position to host playoff games – you never know what can happen.“
East Central is led by Yeison Reyes, who has nine goals, including the game-winner against Coweta Friday night. Angel Dimas and Luis Orozco each have four goals.
Defensively, the Cardinals are led by goalkeeper Edgar Fraire and defenders McDaniel Loredo, Allan Flores and Fernando Flores, helping the club allow just two goals in the last seven games and post eight shutouts.
“Fraire is responsible for helping us keep shutouts and be stout defensively through talking and organizing our back line,” Whitham said. “(Loredo, Flores and Flores) help anchor us defensively and help us keep our shape and cover for each other.”
Owasso girls ready to host playoff game
Following an 8-0 victory over Enid on Monday, Owasso’s girls finished the regular season with an 8-2 mark, second in District 6A-4 with a 6-1 record.
The Rams are 8-1 in their last nine outings, with their only district loss coming against powerhouse Jenks, a 3-0 defeat on April 22.
“I’ve been pretty pleased with the group of kids,” Owasso coach Sam Bowers said. “This group has really overcame a lot, other schools have too, but we went big periods without playing, we lost games (on the schedule), we had Covid, we’ve lost two of our best players for the year on injuries (Delana King and Madison Rhodes). We’re still adjusting. I have a real young squad, and not letting them play last year, you’re trying to blend two classes together. You usually add in a few freshmen, but our sophomores are really talented but they didn’t get to play last year. I’ve been proud of the kids the way they played.”
Owasso will host a first-round playoff matchup Tuesday against Edmond Memorial, which finished 9-6 and went 4-3 in District 6A-3.
“I like our first-round matchup, I think it’s an even game — we can beat them, they can beat us,” Bowers said. “Once you get in the playoffs, you never know.”
While the Rams don’t have any one prime offensive threat, they get contributions from multiple sources, with sophomore Laura Hoefer and senior Chloe Wilkins scoring nine goals each.
“They’re the leading scorers,” Bowers said. “(Wilkins) is a typical midfielder but we’ve actually moved her up front, so she’s playing out of position. She does a good job for us.”
Owasso’s key players defensively have been senior center back Cierra Gann and junior goalkeeper Kimora Tisdale.
“Our oldest kids are playing the back line, so I think defensively, that’s kind of where our strong suit is,” Bowers said. “Tisdale’s been huge, I thought she had the ability to do it, but she’d never been tested, so she’s had a great year. She’s carried us a lot of times we can’t find the net. I’ve been tickled to death with her. Cierra Gann, she keeps everything organized for us.”
— John Tranchina, for the Tulsa World