The Oxford Chargers and Lady Chargers both proved they were superior on the pitch Friday night over the Lafayette Commodores and Lady Commodores. Oxford defeated Lafayette in the girls game 3-1 at Bobby Holcomb Field while the boys game went to penalty kicks to decide theirs with Oxford coming out on top 4-3 in penalty kicks after going to a 1-1 tie in regulation at William L. Buford Stadium. For the Lady ‘Dores, it snapped an 18-game match win streak dating back to last season when they lost in their first meeting to Saltillo.
Oxford (10-1-1 overall) didn’t take long to get on the scoreboard with a goal in the 2nd minute from Ivy Dennis. Getting up early and putting Lafayette (9-1) behind the proverbial eight ball seemed to have an effect on how the Lady ‘Dores played the match the rest of the night.
“We wanted to come out and control the ball from the beginning,” Oxford coach Hunter Crane said, who earned his 99th win as the girls coach. “We wanted to control the possession and push the ball to our forwards and let them have opportunities around the net. We did that for most of the night. I thought our back line did really well limiting their forwards. They got some dangerous girls that can score.”
In the 29th minute, Ole Miss commit Grace Freeman managed to receive the ball and find enough space to fire in the Lady Charger’s second goal of the night to double their lead to 2-0 which Oxford took into halftime. Lafayette managed to pull one back when Caroline Perkins got a rebound off a shot and put it in the net to cut the Oxford lead down to 2-1 in the 45th minute.
It remained at 2-1 until TG Hamilton flipped a shot over Lafayette keeper Caitlyn Rhea and underneath the crossbar to give the Lady Chargers a two-goal cushion again at 3-1 in the 69th minute, a lead Oxford would hold onto the rest of the match. With Lafayette only having 14 players for the match due to injury or COVID-19 quarantine concerns, substitutions were limited and the Hamilton goal seemed to take the energy out from the Lady ‘Dores trying to fight back from being down 2-0 in the match.
“We definitely have a pretty deep bench that we’ve gone to this year,” Crane said. “We have a couple girls out with COVID(-related) issues as well, but we were able to get them in and rotate them and keep everybody fresh. We’ve got a lot of young girls that have stepped up this year. Having girls that you can lean on in tough spots has been important for us.”
Rhea finished with nine saves during the match for Lafayette after Oxford put 12 of their 18 shots on goal. Although not officially credited with saves as Lafayette didn’t officially put up a shot, but Lady Charger keeper Maryana Fulton stopped the ball on several one-on-one situations Lafayette had offensively. Fulton finished the night with four saves. Oxford finished the night with an 18-12 shot advantage with a 12-5 shots on goal advantage, but deceiving as Lafayette had several more offensive chances on goal unable to put up a shot.
In a match that was very even on paper turned to be how the match was played on the field for 80 minutes. Oxford (8-5) scored on an open net rebound in the 20th minute when the ball found John West Perry and made the point-blank shot. Lafayette (4-5-1) countered in the 27th minute with a Nate Dees shot that got past the Charger keeper for the equalizer. Although Oxford had slightly more shots than Lafayette did – Oxford outshot Lafayette 13-10, but the Chargers only put two on frame of the goal while Lafayette managed to put three on frame – the game seemed to stay between the penalty areas for the majority of the match.
“Lafayette, they’re big, strong, and fast,” Crane said regarding the boys match. “Anthony Jones is the ICC (Itawamba Community College) signee and I coached him when he was eight-, nine-, 10-years old. He’s been doing that for years. Obviously we get the one early and gained some momentum and we give that one back kinda a little misstep and you can’t do that to good players.”
The game was physical throughout as Oxford was whistled for 14 fouls and Lafayette was whistled for nine fouls to go along with an additional two free kicks for Oxford for two Lafayette offside calls, totaling 25 free kicks on whistles and there was never much of a flow that was achieved by either team throughout the match with a free kick that wasn’t a goal kick, a corner kick, or a kickoff occurring once every three minutes. Two Yellow Cards were also seen during the match.
“There were a lot of fouls,” Crane said. “The center (referee) for this game was the AR (assistant referee) in the other game and (the girls game) kinda got away from the center over there. He wanted to come out and be a little tighter for this one, so that really stopped our possession a little bit. We want the boys to be similar to the girls where I’m a possession-style coach. We want to possess the soccer the ball, knock it around, and get opportunities around the net.”
After neither team could put one in the net during the second half, the match went down to penalty kicks. Oxford went first and managed to put their first three in the net while Lafayette missed their first shot and the second shot was saved, Oxford blew a 3-0 lead in the kicks from the mark with Lafayette knocking in their next three shots while Oxford skied their fourth kick and their fifth kick squarely struck the crossbar. The kicks went to sudden death where the Chargers made their shot but Lafayette’s shot went too wide, giving Oxford the win.