Ruth’s hat trick powers Wood past Villa Maria

WARMINSTER >> Even to a trained eye, Archbishop Wood’s Lauren Ruth does not look like a freshman on a soccer field.
Showing an uncanny poise on the pitch, along with body control and an accurate shot, Ruth has the look of a wizened vet. Saturday afternoon, the first-year standout was locked in, delivering a hat trick in Wood’s 4-0 win over visiting Villa Maria.
The Vikings continued their recent run of good form, putting together a total effort in the process.
“She’s nonstop, she goes after everything,” Wood coach Bill Cappo said. “She’s a very hard worker.”
Ruth didn’t need long to impose herself on the match, ripping a shot in the first few minutes before breaking the deadlock a few moments later with a well-taken effort. Positioned outside the right side of the box, the freshman put a high-arcing volley that fell right in that area between the crossbar and the very edge of the keeper’s reach.
The ball hit off Villa’s keeper’s gloves and deflected backward, giving Wood an early lead. A few minutes later, Ruth doubled both her total and the Vikings’ lead when she jumped on a service by Kylie Menarde and again smartly chipped over the keeper.
“The up-top corners are always open,” Ruth said. “I figured she wouldn’t get it if I went there.”
Villa had two quick shots in response snuffed out by Wood keeper Paige McQuillen. McQuillen had the first half and Samantha Baccari had the final 40 minutes to combine for the shutout effort, with seven saves between them. The closest Villa came to a goal was in the first half when a shot clanged off the post.
Other than those few forways, Wood’s backline did a good job of dealing with the Hurricanes’ attack. Senior Claire Bassetti is the lone returner from last season’s defense, but she has become the clear-cut leader for the Vikings.
“She’s the last one, she’s the leader,” Cappo said. “She’s a smart, very intelligent player and she holds the backfield together. She’s the anchor.”
Patrolling as a center back, Bassetti noticed that the Hurricanes were trying to play a lot of balls through, hoping to spring a winger or forward on a run. Wood’s line played it well, baiting Villa into a number of offside calls in the first half, and shutting down the runs once the Hurricanes adjusted.
“Their forwards weren’t as fast as our outside defenders,” Bassetti said. “We were able to stay with them so we could knock the ball down and clear it out.”
Wood made it 3-0 just before the halftime break thanks to an excellent ball from winger Erin Eckert. Wood had won a free kick on the right flank, bringing Eckert off the left wing to take it. Her service was right where it needed to be, going far post and finding the head of Kerry McMongale, who powered it in.
Eckert and fellow senior Sarah Welch on the right side added a dynamic to Wood’s attack with their speed and technical ability on the outsides.
“They gave a lot of space,” Bassetti said. “For our faster girls like Lauren and Kerry up top, they take advantage of it and they’ll go right around you.”
“They weren’t really marking on the outside,” Eckert added. “We worked to give the ball to our center mids and they distributed the ball out and we could cross back in and that’s how we scored two of our goals.”
After taking a 3-0 lead into the break, Ruth and the Vikings came out to put the game away early in the second. Sofia Filippo was able to win the ball back deep in Villa’s end and sent a through ball to the far post where Ruth had made a decisive run, meeting the ball and tapping it in for her third goal.
The win, and the performance, capped a recent surge by the Vikings as the new additions and younger players have caught up with the more experienced players.
“We lost a lot of seniors and had a lot of players not used to playing together,” Eckert said. “Now we’re clicking. We know where players are going to be and at the right time and we can find feet. Coach has been telling us to play feet, feet, feet and it’s finally working.”
Another byproduct is that Wood feels its building some depth. Bassetti noted the bench players can come in and provide more than just fresh legs when its their time to step on the field.
Ruth said one of the adjustments she’s made is playing a bit more physical and use her body to create advantage. If Saturday was an indication, she’s already adding to an already impressive foundation.
“Everyone is very verbal with what they want,” Ruth said. “They help me out on the field and tell me places that are open, when to turn and when to shoot.”

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