TURBOTVILLE - The year after losing a four-year starter, especially one that established herself as one of the top performers at her position, is always tough.
But, as difficult as it was for Warrior Run fans to see Reda Vermilya graduate, it might be a little easier after watching her freshman replacement, Olivia George, play.
In Tuesday's HAC II contest against Southern Columbia, George stopped six shots including a diving stop from her knees with six minutes left to help Warrior Run secure a 1-0 win.
"I made a mistake by coming out feet first," George said. "It was just a reaction. I just tried to do what I could to get my hand on the ball."
What George did after stopping the initial shot was preserve Warrior Run's victory after a flurry of shots by Southern Columbia ended the contest.
"She got down and up quick," Warrior Run (2-0, 2-0) coach Jen Allen said of the save.
George also showed little fear when diving into traffic on crossing attempts and corners. She also wasn't shy about directing players in front of her, which was the most impressive part of her game.
"She's doing a good job back there talking the whole game and making sure people are where they need to be," Allen said. "It's a pretty tough job replacing a four-year starter. She's met the challenge and she's showed it. She made some really good saves and deserves to be there."
And she wasn't the only new face stepping up for the two-time Class A defending champion.
Trinda Wertman played a tough defensive game for the Defenders. And playing along side Laura Bastian only added to the Defenders' intensity on the defensive side.
"We rotate a bunch of girls in there and they just kept it going," Allen said. "I was really impressed with the play around the back. They swung it around the back and went up the other side a couple times."
Wertman communicated well, and opened lanes for the defense to clear balls through. She even, on a few occasions, carried the ball past midfield and pushed the offensive attack.
Mackenzie Clark, who nearly scored from a free kick in the final minute of the first half, had a difficult time getting past Wertman. In the 26th minute of the first half, Wertman cut Clark off on her way to the goal, made a nice turn on the ball and cleared it to midfield.
And as good as she was in the first half, she was even better in the second half.
Wertman, who made pushing the ball into the attacking third difficult for Mackenzie Haladay throughout the second half, controlled the middle of the field, intercepting balls and pushing chances into the attacking third. Wertman chased Haladay down the field on a late rush in the second half and forced a corner after blocking a shot with her body.
The block created a corner for Southern, which nearly led to a Tigers' goal until George made the diving save from her knees.
"I love my defense, they are always there for me," George said. "I'm so comfortable with them. They always seem to be in the right place."
The combinations of Bastian and Wertman even created offense for the Defenders' attackers.
The two removed Clark from the ball as she streaked down the center of the field. Wertman then collected the ball and sent it up to the forwards. Taylor Landis, last year's leading scorer, was able to get a shot off the interception, but Southern Columbia's (1-1, 0-1) Jess Watkins was up for the challenge.
"We've been working on it a lot," Wertman said of the defense. "I had a lot of faith in the team."
Landis continued to create chances throughout the contest before breaking through in the second minute of the second half. Chole Eisenhuth, who, despite her size, constantly out-jumped the opposition and muscled her way through the midfield, jumped in front of a pass at midfield and found a streaking Landis. Landis, who timed the ball perfectly to get behind the Tigers' defense, collected the feed, gave a quick move and found the upper right corner of the goal.
She continued to push Southern Columbia throughout the half, and missed high twice on good looks in front of the goal. As good as the Defenders forwards were, the combination of Emily Potter, Eisenhuth and Sarah Grow, to name a few, were dominate at midfield.
Potter, who subbed in midway through the first half, used her long throw-ins to change possession and took most of the Defenders free kicks. Midway through the first half, Potter nearly tallied the Defenders first goal when she headed a ball from a Landis free-kick. Watkins struggled to control the shot, but was able to pull it down.
Southern Columbia played a tough game against Warrior Run. Bailey Bzdak nearly slotted a goal when Sarah Haluck was called for jumping into a player. From about 30 yards out, Bzdak went right to goal, forcing George to stepup and make the save.
WR-Taylor Landis (Chloe Eisenhuth), 42:09.
Shots: SC 9 WR 13. Shot on goal: SC 6 WR 4. Corners: SC 7 WR 2. Saves: SC (Jess Watkins) 3 WR (Olivia George) 6.
Records: Warrior Run 2-0 (2-0). Southern Columbia 1-1 (0-1).
Next: Hughesville at Warrior Run, Thursday, 4:30 p.m.