ELSBERRY - It may have been April 1, but the Wright City girls soccer team wasn’t fooling around.

Especially Hannah Kendall, who recorded a hat trick as the Wildcats survived a late scare from host Elsberry to land a 4-2 victory Monday, the first one in the short history of the first-year program.

“We were just talking about how this means a lot being the first-ever win,” Head Coach Devin Raney said. “I’m just happy the girls are excited and hopefully we can take this momentum to get some more wins and keep things rolling.”

A triumph for the visitors seemed in the bag after Kendall staked the Wildcats to a 3-0 advantage by connecting on a penalty kick for her second goal with 21:25 remaining in the second half.

But Elsberry almost pulled it out with a rally. 

Molly Stanek started it by netting the Indians’ first goal with 10:44 left and things got extra tense when she cut her team’s deficit to a single score after drilling a PK of her own with 2:22 to go.

Elsberry even had an opportunity to knot it up, but Wright City’s defense sweated out the last two minutes and change and Kendall was there to seal the deal with her third goal in the game’s closing seconds.

“Kind of got nervous there at the end,” Raney said. “We started to let off the gas a little bit and it showed. Elsberry got it close, but luckily we held them off and got that insurance goal. And Hannah being able to get the hat trick was awesome.”

Senior midfielder Elizabeth Lopez punched in the Wildcats’ only other goal of the contest.

Junior goalkeeper Kelsey Capstick also had a big role in win No. 1. She made a handful of clutch saves and stood tall when the game was on the line and senior sweeper Melina Campbell had plenty of clears. 

“Kelsey almost stopped their penalty shot, too, which is extremely difficult to do,” Raney said. 

“She got a hand on it and I thought she was going to be able to tip it wide, but she just didn’t get enough of it.”

Raney said he thought his team’s performance was a big step forward following a 2-0 shutout loss at Fulton in the season opener on March 21.

“I saw a lot better effort from everyone today,” he said. “We were focusing on our defense and getting the ball up. We did a really good job of that and our passes were a lot cleaner as well.”

The Indians, who also have players from Silex as part of a co-op agreement, dropped to 1-5 overall. Their program continues to grow and their roster size has nearly doubled after only having 13 players last year.

The Wildcats (1-1), who celebrated defeating Elsberry with a giant group selfie, kicked off their home slate against North Tech Wednesday and visit Lutheran North Monday. 

Who knows? If Kendall keeps delivering hat tricks more selfies could be on the way.

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