The Woodland girls soccer team started the season with an overreliance on senior Kaitlin Winnenberg in the goal-scoring department.
Even still, the Wildcats were a good team at that point. But since the emergence of Tiera Feanny and the rest of the team’s attacking options, Woodland has taken its play to the next level.
That elevated level of play was on full display in a dominant 6-1 home win Tuesday over Kell.
Feanny, a freshman, notched her first-career hat trick, while Molly Plott, Anna McCrary and Winnenberg scored one goal apiece.
The increased scoring presence, of Feanny in particular, has turned the Wildcats (5-3-1, 2-1) into a legitimate challenger for one of the four Region 7-AAAAA playoff spots.
“She’s really come on as a freshman for us,” Woodland coach Jonathan Cannon said of Feanney, who he added is up to eight goals for the year. “If you look at our scores tonight, Kaitlin only had one. We had two other people who only had one.
“We’re spreading the ball out and getting a lot of people involved, and that’s really helpful. Anybody can stop a one-man show, but it’s really tough to stop multiple threats. It’s extremely helpful for us that we have multiple contributors.”
Despite the lopsided scoreline, the Wildcats didn’t get exactly off to a flying start Tuesday.
Both teams had chances through the opening 20 minutes, but Woodland had the only goal — a 17th-minute strike from Plott.
Kell (1-6-1, 1-1) equalized in the 25th minute when Meagan Thacker’s shot from outside the box got past Woodland goalie Esmeralda Hernandez, who was otherwise flawless in a 15-save performance.
That moment, though, finally seemed to light a fire under the Wildcats.
The final 10 minutes of the first half saw Woodland score three times to take a comfortable 4-1 lead into the intermission.
Feanny notched her first two goals in the 30th and 36th minutes, and she nearly added a third mere seconds after extending the Wildcats’ advantage to 3-1.
McCrary then got on the scoresheet with her goal 14 seconds before the halftime horn on an assist from Feanny.
“We didn’t control the game much in the first 20 minutes,” Cannon said. “Just attributed to lack of motivation. I don’t know why.
“When we found motivation, that’s when we started scoring. To have those few goals boost that motivation, especially going into the second half with a bigger lead.”
Any chance of a rally from the Longhorns seemed to evaporate when the fifth goal was scored 33 seconds into the second half by Winnenberg, who was subbed in the final minutes after appearing to pick up an injury.
“It was a big boost to what we were already feeling,” Cannon said of the quick strike after halftime. “It kind of put the game — not really out of reach, but it kind of felt like that — and it really downed [Kell’s] spirits.”
Fittingly, Feanny wrapped up the scoring almost exactly halfway through the second period with a 60th-minute goal.
Despite her youth, Feanny showed patience and soccer acumen beyond her years in netting a hat trick.
Her first goal came off a one-on-one opportunity with the goalkeeper, where she showed a veteran’s composure to slot home. Feanney’s second was a pure poacher’s goal, and her final strike was a rocket off her right foot into the far corner.
It’s clear Feanny’s on-field production will be a big factor for Woodland this season, but Cannon believes her leadership abilities will be important for the Wildcats for years to come.
“She’s very calm, collected most of the time,” Cannon said. “We haven’t seen a whole lot of crazy, excited T. She’s pretty, generally, calm, and she’s going to be a big leader for us coming out of this season and into the next three.”
Kell 5, Woodland boys 0
The Woodland boys soccer team suffered its first Region 7-AAAAA loss of the season in a 5-0 setback against visiting Kell on Tuesday.
The Longhorns (2-4-1, 2-0) controlled proceedings throughout the first half, but some solid last-ditch defending kept the Wildcats (3-4-1, 2-1) within 2-0 at the break.
Woodland came out strong to begin the second half, coming close several times to halving the deficit. Kell, though, weathered the storm and struck for two quick goals in the 47th and 48th minutes to seal the game.
Another strike for the Longhorns set the final score.
Woodland travels to Cass on Friday. The girls start at 5:30 p.m. with the boys set to kick off at approximately 7:30.