Polk overcomes Owen, post-break fatigue to score key conference win

Polk County's Rhian Alley

Corner kicks, free kicks, throw-ins – Polk County soccer coach Lennox Charles felt one of those set plays would produce a goal during Wednesday’s key Western Highlands Conference match with Owen.

Charles’ hunch proved spot on – the Wolverines tallied twice in a three-minute span in the second half, both off set plays, to hand Owen a 2-0 loss in G.M. Tennant Stadium.

The win moves Polk County (12-4, 8-2) into sole possession of second place in the WHC and gives the Wolverines a shot to stay there entering their final week of regular-season play. Polk County hosts Mitchell on Friday before traveling Monday to face conference leader Hendersonville.

Owen, which needed penalty kicks to break a scoreless tie and defeat Polk earlier this season, dropped to 10-6, 8-3 with the loss.

Making the win especially rewarding for Charles – it marked the Wolverines’ first game in almost two weeks thanks to spring break and inclement weather.

“That’s a really good win for us, to be honest,” Charles said. “We knew we could play with them. We lost on penalty kicks the first game.

“But I would put this in the really good win category because we struggled in the first part of the game and the end of the game. Our energy coming off spring break was going to hurt us today. Clearly, we had the effort and were still good enough to overcome that.”

The Wolverines broke a scoreless tie in the 50th minute with what Charles called the team’s best goal of the season.

Taking a free kick from the left side of the field, perhaps 10 yards atop the penalty area, senior Rhian Alley bent a perfect kick toward the back post, maybe five yards off the goal line. The arc of the ball met fellow senior Addie Lynch in full stride, and Lynch headed the ball into the net to give Polk a 1-0 lead.

Moments later, the Wolverines struck again. A Polk corner kick dropped into a flurry of Wolverines and Warhorses just in front of the net, the ball bouncing around a bit before finding the foot of freshman Ava Marino, who directed it into the right corner of the goal to give the Wolverines a 2-0 advantage.

Though visibliy tiring, Polk County made that lead stick, largely keeping the Wolverines from mounting a serious threat in the final 27 minutes.

“I could tell they were pretty tired, but they kept working hard,” Charles said. “We weren’t exceptionally sharp, but we did create more good chances than they did.”