St. Joseph Academy at Walker girls soccer Faith Walton Mary Melancon

Walker High's Faith Walton (32) finds space to dribble in front of St. Joseph's Mary Melancon (16).

WALKER – St. Joseph’s Academy exploded for six goals in the second half to down Walker 7-1 in Tuesday’s District 3-I matchup.

The Redstickers took a well-earned 1-0 halftime lead, but then turned on the jets and dominated nearly every facet of the game in the second half.

St. Joseph’s (8-2-4) took 19 shots with 10 on goal, while the Walker (8-4-1, 1-1 in district) managed to take only three shots and put one on target.

After a quiet opening 15 minutes, Mary Melancon gave St. Joseph’s a lead, slipping behind the Lady Cats back line and skipped a low ball that went directly into the back corner of the net.

St. Joseph Academy at Walker girls soccer Emily Hernandez Olivia Hupperich

Walker High's Emily Hernandez (5) locks on to the ball while shielding St. Joseph's Olivia Hupperich (9).

Following Melancon’s goal SJA forced the issue in the first half, taking seven shots in a row without a rebuttal from Walker. Most of the half took place on Walker’s half of the field, but SJA couldn’t find an additional goal before the halftime whistle sounded.

“The first half we really battled, real hard,” Walker coach Mike Lockhart said. “We really did. That’s what I’m after. We’re playing a team that’s really skilled and probably one of the top seven or eight teams in the state. We battled the first half, we battled real hard. But we have to battle for 80 minutes.”

Just as Walker started to get a push before halftime, disaster struck when the Lady Cats lost the services of center midfield Sydney Nester to an undetermined leg injury that could result in a lengthy time away from the field.

Nester is an important cog in the Lady Cats’ offense and her loss will impact the team.

“She’s mainly the person that handles the ball for us,” said Walker’s Faith Walton, who scored her team’s lone goal. “She’s our outlet. She gives us passes and connects us through the midfield. So (losing her) was pretty big.”

“With Sydney getting hurt, that didn’t help,” Lockhart said. “She’s a very gifted player and very skilled. But that’s where we have to learn that when one person goes down, the next person has to step up. You just can’t say ‘oh, somebody is hurt therefore it’s over.’ That’s not how you compete. We’ll see how we react, and we’ll see how we bounce back.”

The Red Stickers doubled up their lead soon after half, scoring on Taylor Blouin’s free kick from 25 yards out in the 44th minute. Blouin’s kick was high, out of the reach of Walker goalkeeper Madeline Watson and took a glance off the underside of the crossbar to land across the line.

St. Joseph Academy at Walker girls soccer Sydney Nester Rhys Lopiparo

Walker High's Sydney Nester (18) brings the ball under control in front of St. Joseph's Rhys Lopiparo (17).

SJA added a third goal 10 minutes later when Maddie Ieyoub let loose a perfect strike from 45 yards out that landed between Watson’s mitts and the crossbar.

“When we’re in a defensive posture, we have to bow up and play stronger,” Lockhart said. “We didn’t in the second half. We were incredibly weak defensively in the second half. You can’t play like that.”

Walton interrupted the SJA’s scoring blitz when she found herself all alone deep in the Redstickers’ territory on a counter. She coolly scored after taking her time to collect a ball played in by Chloe Medine into the side netting.

“Chloe (Medine) was dribbling down the side and I saw the ball bounce off her foot and go past a player,” Walton said. “And I just chipped it into the corner.”