Polk County did Wednesday night what winning teams usually do – sensed an opportunity and quickly moved in to take it.
The Wolverines scored three goals in a 20-minute span of the second half to hand rival Hendersonville a 3-1 setback in a key Western Highlands Conference game in Wolverine Stadium.
The win keeps the sixth-ranked Wolverines (7-2, 5-0) alone in first place in the WHC. Perhaps just as importantly, it hands Hendersonville (7-4-1, 4-2) a second conference loss, dropping the Bearcats into third place behind Madison and setting the stage for what should be quite a battle in the second half of the conference season.
“Nothing about a Hendersonville game is ever easy,” said Polk County head coach Lennox Charles. “It’s always a good game and more drama than you would like.
“I think we did a good job of trying to do the things we talked about doing. I think that really gave us some confidence.”
The two teams battled to a scoreless tie at the half, but Polk County came out of the break and began immediately pressuring the Bearcat defense. That led to a scramble and collision in front of the net four minutes in that left Hendersonville goalkeeper Anna Brewer with a knee injury.
Brewer, who made a brilliant diving stop of an Addie Lynch shot late in the first half, left and did not return, and Polk seemed to sense that the time was right to put even more pressure on the Bearcats.
Except Hendersonville struck first. Breanna Kirk fired a ball from the left wing that at first appeared to be a crossing pass, but instead proves a perfectly-placed shot over the head of Wolverine goalkeeper Kara Overholt, who made several outstanding saves in the match, and into the right corner of the night, giving Hendersonville a 1-0 lead with 31:07 remaining.
Polk’s Ashley Love nearly responded less than a minute later, and while you can’t hurry love, you often can’t stop Love, who outraced a defender at the 23:38 mark and poked a loose ball past goalkeeper Ashley Mel, tying the match.
Less than four minutes later, Polk struck again as Sammie Firby broke free for a one-on-one opportunity and easily beat Mel for what proved to be the winning goal.
“The Hendersonville goal came early enough that we didn’t panic,” Charles said. “That allowed us not to completely go into panic mode.”
The Wolverines’ final tally, with 3:41 left in the match, sparked some controversy. Caroline Lee fired a bullet from the right wing that Mel deflected into the arm of Lynch, who had charged toward Mel and stood no more than a yard away. The deflection caromed off Lynch’s hand and into the goal. Ruled an unintentional handball, the goal insured that the evening would belong to Polk.
The Wolverines are slated to host West Henderson on Thursday, with junior varsity play beginning at 5 p.m.