Verdigris senior Lauren Bulcroft (11) assesses the Sequoyah goalkeeper’s position before scoring one of her three first-half goals during the Lady Cardinals’ district opener Thursday night.

SEQUOYAH — After opening the season with six-consecutive games against larger schools, Verdigris girls soccer was eager to pick on a school its size.

Lauren Bulcroft ensured the District 3A-3 opener went as smoothly as possible, netting a hat trick in the first half while leading the Lady Cardinals to a 9-0 victory over intracounty foe Sequoyah on Thursday night at the Pope Athletic Complex.

The senior scored goals in the fourth, 22nd and 23rd minutes in what was her first hat trick of the young season. She led the team with 30 goals during her sophomore year in 2019, but she didn’t have a chance to duplicate or improve on that number in 2020 because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Verdigris played one game before the season was canceled.

However, Bulcroft didn’t wallow in grief after losing her junior season. She instead chose to keep practicing to improve and develop her skills for whatever 2021 had to offer in terms of a soccer season.

“I still played competitively, so it’s not like I didn’t get any practice,” Bulcroft said. “Also, me and the girls would go out to the field and practice, and we’d still play and pass and make sure to get touches on the ball and exercise. I think that was the most important thing I used my break for because if I would have sat down, I don’t think I would’ve been able to handle myself.”

Lexy Borgstadt, fresh off leading the basketball team to its first state tournament appearance since 2014, had herself an impressive showing as well, scoring goals in the 26th and 32nd minute. She nearly notched a hat trick herself with several close calls in the second half, including a strike that bounced off the crossbar.

Abigail Bell also found the back of the net in the first half with a goal in the eighth minute. The combined effort of Bulcroft, Borgstadt and Bell helped the Lady Cardinals go into halftime with a 6-0 lead.

Evee Jones (42’), Maribel Shaddix (57’) and Abby Barnes (67’) scored in the second half for Verdigris. Barnes made 1 of 2 penalty kicks in the final 15 minutes.

Despite being sophomores, Jones and Barnes are relatively new to varsity soccer thanks to the cancellation of the 2020 season.

Bulcroft commented on their ability to have an impact on games with so little experience.

“I’m just really proud of my team and the way we’ve been coming together,” Bulcroft said. “It’s really hard because we basically have two new classes of girls. Freshman girls and sophomore girls are basically new to the team because we didn’t get a season last year. I’m really proud of the way they’re working and how we’re all learning to play together. I think that’s amazing.”

Now seven games in, Lady Cardinals coach Stacia Risenhoover said she has noticed her players become more accustomed to each other, which has helped them learn and grow as a unit.

The learning curve was a bit expedited for the younger players because Verdigris has already played four Class 4A teams and two Class 6A teams, but Risenhoover likes what she sees thus far.

“I feel like we’ve done a really good job this year,” Risenhoover said. “The younger ones are starting to step up and learn a little bit more. I don’t think we’ve had any really bad games. We’ve handled the ball, and even against the 6A teams we still pretty much controlled it for the most part, we just didn’t get one in when we needed to.”

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