Across all sports in the past three years, it's fair to say the Battle of the Birds doesn't always live up the pregame hype.
Monday's girls' soccer match between Scott County and Great Crossing reversed that course and then some.
In terms to competitive balance, both sides entering the fray and the top of their game and maintaining that high level throughout, Cards vs. Warhawks satisfied and exceeded expectations in every category except producing an ultimate winner. The rivals settled for a 2-2 deadlock.
“They have a good team. Not taking anything away from them,” GC coach Steve Brown said. “They have some seriously quality players. I would have much rather been watching that as a fan.”
Scott County freshman sensation Tatum Borman, who scored a school-record seven goals in a game last week, twice supplied a strike that gave the Cardinals a lead in each half.
Both times, in only a matter of minutes, Great Crossing senior Madisyn Dodge — who started her career in a contributing role for the red-and-white as a ninth grader — served up the response.
Goalkeepers Shelby Smith of GC (13 saves) and Kennedy Kanavy (12 stops) of SC and their tireless defenses kept it that way thereafter.
“We started off really well the first 15, 20 minutes. Then they flipped the script,” SC coach Scott McKelway said. “We tried rushing too much. They have a really good back line. Shelby was keeping us out of the goal with absolutely amazing saves.”
SC (7-5-1) went up 1-0 with 20:35 remaining in the first half when Borman headed in a corner kick by Kennedy Harmon that curled perfectly toward the Cardinal cage.
That punctuated an early flourish in which Scott County produced the vast majority of runs and quality shots.
“They came out and punched us in the mouth,” Brown said. “We played quality ball the last 20 minutes,and that was it. Everything in between was just kids being emotional about playing other kids they know. That's swhat's tough about rivalries a lot of times.”
GC (6-4-2) hadn't allowed a goal before Borman's first one since Aug. 30 against Lafayette, a streak of more 476 match minutes that included five consecutive victories.
Dodge delivered her first reply with 11 minutes remaining in the half. Kanavy knocked down a loud blast by fellow sophomore Meren Patton but couldn't recover in time to get more than her fingertips on Dodge's follow inside the near post.
“We still have the young defense,” McKelway said. “First one they had was a deflection off the keeper. That was day one. We've been telling them defenders have to come back. Kennedy can't save five deflected shots in a row.”
SC's defensive corps, led by Kate Evans, BA Thornsbury, and Leah Willoughby marking Patton, produced plenty of shining moments, particularly late in regulation with GC pressing for the potential game-winner.
Borman put the Warhawks in that attack mode by vaulting the Cardinals to a 2- l lead 90 seconds after intermission.
Harmon earned a corner kick after Smith made a diving denial of her run at the right post. GC never fully cleared from the ensuing sequence, and Borman ultimately broke free off a throw-in.
“If you're looking at differences in the game, set pieces,” McKelway said. “That one, Tatum did her thing and put it in the back of the net.”
Less than four minutes later, Brooke Dennard rattled a cross from the right side off the post. Kanavy and several SC defenders flailed at the deflection before Dodge directed it home.
“I feel like more opportunities were there, but we weren't playing smart ball,” Brown said. “We made better decisions in the second half. One thing I did like is when we got down, we didn't quit, We came back.”
GC dropped a heartbreaker at Madison Central, 1-0, on a penalty kick by Kally Lloyd with 90 seconds left Wednesday night.
The Warhawks remain the favorite in the 41st District, while the Cards have their best hope in several seasons of getting through the 42nd District playoffs and into the 11th Region tourney.
And yes, that could mean a rematch with much higher stakes.
“I hope we do see them again, because it was a great game,” Brown said. “I've got to give them credit. We have good players, and they have quality players, and when they were playing team ball in the first half, they were taking it at us.”
“If we had started off playing Great Crossing, I don't think we would have found the same result,” McKelway admitted. “Everybody learned a little bit more about themselves tonight, got some aggression out.”
Kal Oakes can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.