By Aaron Poling

EGELSTON TOWNSHIP – Contact tracing has thrown a wrench into quite a few team’s plans this year.

The Oakridge girls soccer team was one of them. At one time during the season, five of the Eagles’ 11 starters were out due to contact tracing.

All the players have returned following their stint with the COVID protocol, and their team is beginning to find its rhythm. 

That was apparent on Friday might, when Saidee Raap’s hat trick led the Eagles to a hard-fought 4-3 win over rival Orchard View in a non-keague contest. The Eagles improved to 7-11 overall, while the Cardinals fell to 8-4-2 overall.

“It was tough to bring them back together,” Oakridge Coach Greg Fleener said about his players after the game. “The biggest thing to get back was the trust level. I think we are better than our record, but it is what it is. We are going to go through things, and I think our girls are building resilience.”

“We came together really well,” added senior McKenzie Swarts. “It allowed other players to step up, and it made us want it that much more.”

One of the players that was out due to contact tracing was Raap, Friday night’s hat trick hero.

“I tried to run every day,” Raap said about the time she had to sit out. “I knew that if I didn’t, I would not have been ready after the two weeks, and that would have let my team down.”

The duo of Raap and Swarts has been dynamic all year. When one scores, the other often gets an assist.

“In games, we go back and forth a lot,” Raap said. “If I am on one game, it’s usually her feeding me. If not, it is the other way around where I am feeding her and she’s scoring goals. It’s really just us working together and supporting each other, no matter who scores.”

“I trust her with my whole heart to get to the ball,” Swarts said after the game. “We support each other. We have been working together for years, and that has built our trust up.”

Raap opened the scoring with 32:26 left in the first half, after battling through a pair of defenders to finish the play off. 

The Cardinals responded with the next goal. Emma Peklar sent a free kick to the six yard box. The ball bounced around the box and found Kyah McGruther, who buried a shot to tie the score 1-1 with 20:13 left in the half. 

The Eagles untied the game at the 14:25 mark, when Swarts sent a ball through to Raap, who got loose on a breakaway. Cardinals keeper MacKenzie Moore made the initial save, but Raap scored on the rebound.

The Cardinals tied the game 2-2 with 7:12 left in the half following a corner kick that bounced off a few players until Payten Bleich fired the ball into the net on a volley.

The Eagles retook the lead right before halftime when Swarts scored her first goal of the game.

Oakridge took a 4-2 lead when Raap scored less than five minutes into the second half. Swartz picked up her second assist on the play.

McGruther’s second goal pulled the Cardinals within one, but that was all the offense Orchard View could muster.

“She has been an offensive weapon for us,” Orchard View Head Coach Burt Wachter said about McGruther after the game. “She has scored quite a few goals for us this season. She has a nose for the goal, and her soccer IQ allows her to get quite a few looks at the net.”

Eagles goalkeeper Izzy Owens-Glassford made six saves in while OV’s Moore made eight saves. 

The Eagles outshot the Cardinals 12-9.