Owen makes early lead stand to top Polk, secure WHC title

Owen’s first half Thursday proved better than Polk County’s second – and that proved good enough to decide the Western Highlands Conference champion.

The Warhorses made a 2-0 halftime lead stand, holding off the Wolverines to take a 2-1 win in a WHC girls soccer showdown in G.M. Tennant Stadium.

With the win, Owen (12-2-1, 8-0) secured the WHC regular-season title and won its 19th straight conference match, the last loss a 2-0 setback at Polk County on April 26, 2017.

The Wolverines (8-4-3, 6-2) had a chance to snap that streak.

Shaking off a sluggish first half, Polk County began to press forward offensively early in the second half, and that effort paid off when Reese Alley drew a foul in the penalty area in the 52nd minute. Alley calmly drilled the free kick past Owen standout goalkeeper C.J. Graham, a Lipscomb University signee, to slice the Warhorses’ lead in half.

Polk’s pressure continued and the Wolverines had a couple of added chances, including one with six minutes left in the match on a shot from point-blank range that Graham easily stopped.

“The shot there, anywhere but straight at the keeper, and it’s in the goal,” said Polk County head coach Lennox Charles. “We had a couple of half chances where we were just a little bit off, a half-step late. We were off just a little bit and couldn’t get the ball into the back of the net.”

Owen got on the board in the 10th minute when Kayla Roseman drove down the left side of the pitch and sent a perfect cross to junior Camryn Bolick, who quickly redirected the pass into the upper left corner of the net for a 1-0 lead.

The Warhorses added their second goal some 22 minutes later as Mattie Lehman picked up a free ball near the top of the box, drove in and drilled a shot for the 2-0 lead.

“Of everyone we’ve played, they’re probably the most physically aggressive team we’ve seen,” Charles said. “We talked about that, and we did a decent job handling that. I think we started out OK, and they didn’t really have a lot of chances offensively, but after about 15 minutes, we kind of lost it. In that little stretch of 20 minutes, they had the two goals.

“I’m pretty happy about the response. When you’re down one, it’s easy to come out and play well and look for a goal. When you’re playing a good team and down two, to come out and play well says something. We forced them to have their best player (Bolick) be in the defensive third most of the half.”

Polk County travels to Mountain Heritage on Tuesday before hosting Madison on Wednesday in its regular-season finale.