Verdigris title game primer

Verdigris midfielder Kayla Darden (4) works to steal the ball from Ft. Gibson’s Haddison Bradley during the Lady Cardinals’ 2-1 win in the Class 4A quarterfinals on Saturday, May 4.

Verdigris is no stranger to the big stage.

The Lady Cardinals are a perennial power in Class 4A soccer, and they have a chance to add to the program’s illustrious resume with its eighth state championship at 4 p.m. today against Clinton at the University of Tulsa.

It is Verdigris’ ninth state-title game appearance in 11 seasons.

Led by senior Aubrey Lechlider and sophomore Lauren Bulcroft, the Lady Cardinals enter the match on a 12-game winning streak, outscoring opponents 69-5 during that time.

Verdigris (14-5) hasn’t experienced a loss since falling to Enid, 3-1, in the Stillwater Cup on March 28.

During this postseason run, Lechlider and Bulcroft have combined for nine of the team’s 13 goals in victories over Miami, Holland Hall, Ft. Gibson and Harrah.

Junior Abigail Teal has netted three of the other four.

Now let’s take a look at the opponent Clinton.

The Lady Reds are 16-2 this season, claiming the District 4A-1 championship. This is the team’s second trip to the title game in three years.

Clinton won the program’s first state championship with a 5-0 decision over Santa Fe South in 2017. Verdigris knocked off the Lady Reds in last year’s semifinals, 2-1, on the way to its seventh state title.

Including this season, Clinton boasts a 53-5 record since 2017.

Macey Fernandez, a three-year starter, is the Lady Reds’ top scorer with 27 goals. Although only a junior, she is the program’s all-time leading scorer with 80 goals.

Feeding her from the midfield will be Morgan Clothier and junior Aubrey Gonzales, who is also the team’s long-range scorer and go-to option for free kicks.

Gonzales is still recovering from an ACL tear suffered last season, but she has managed to contribute with seven goals, most of which came in the last few games.

Despite Clinton’s offensive success with 99 goals this season, its defense might be even more ruthless.

The Lady Reds’ four defenders, Aleisha Hester, Jessica Jefferson, Mireya Hernandez and Anayeli Soto have all started three years together, giving them the necessary experience for a state title run.

Additionally, goalkeeper Alexia Aston has surrendered only 10 goals in 18 games, including 13 shutouts.

Before Skiatook managed one in Clinton’s 5-1 win in the semifinals on Wednesday, the Lady Reds hadn’t given up a goal in eight-straight games.

Comparatively, Verdigris has outscored opponents 88-19 with 10 shutouts.

Clinton enters the game on a 10-game winning streak, with its last defeat coming March 30 in a 4-0 loss to Moore in the Clinton Classic Cup.

*Clinton Daily News sports editor Collin Wieder contributed to this story