Kyerstin Swigart

Madison's Kyerstin Swigart and Clear Fork's Kylie Belcher battle for control of the ball during Wednesday's Division II district semifinal match at Lexington High School.

LEXINGTON — The postseason has brought out the best in defending Division II state champion Madison.

The Rams, who lost the most successful class in program history to graduation last spring and staggered to a sub-.500 regular season record this fall, knocked off Clear Fork 4-2 in the nightcap of a Division II district semifinal doubleheader Wednesday at Lexington High School.

With the win, second-seeded Madison (10-9) advances to the district championship match for a fifth straight year. And for the fifth straight year, the Rams will meet No. 1 Ontario in the district final at 2 p.m. Saturday at Lexington. The Warriors blanked Lexington 2-0 in Wednesday's opening game.

The Rams have won a season-high four straight games, three of which have come in the tournament. Before the current four-game streak, Madison lost three in a row and five of six. What’s more, the Rams only won back-to-back games once during the regular season — and that was in late-August.

“If you would have asked me half way through the season, I definitely wouldn’t have thought this,” Madison coach Zac Huff said. “The girls are coming together and playing as a team. That’s what it’s all about, coming together when it counts.”

Sophomore standout Nevaeh Lewis got Madison going in the seventh minute when she scored on an outstanding individual effort. Five minutes later, Taylor Tucker headed in a corner kick from Shannon Jamieson and the Rams led 2-0.

“Everybody asked me how we were going to do and I said, ‘I tell you in the first five minutes how we’re going to play,” Huff said. “We came out and probably played our best game we’ve played all year.”

Clear Fork cut Madison’s lead to 2-1 on sophomore forward Kendall Windsor’s goal with 20:53 remaining in the opening half.

“I can’t say that we didn’t play well,” Clear Fork coach Brittany Bechtel said. “They kept fighting to the end.

“It wasn’t our best effort but I can’t look out there and feel like we didn’t play hard.”

Madison pushed the lead to 3-1 with 3:27 to play in the opening half on Marisah Atterholt’s goal. The Rams took a 3-1 advantage to halftime.

Clear Fork again cut Madison’s lead to a single goal when Lily Wortman scored with 36 minutes remaining in the second half, but Atterholt iced it when her long-range shot rattled the crossbar and went in with 24:17 remaining for a 4-2 Madison lead.

“I had opportunities and I’m like, ‘Just take them,’ ” Atterholt said. “When you take them, they have a chance of falling in and they did.”

Clear Fork had a handful of scoring opportunities, but couldn’t cash in.

“You’re only going to get so many opportunities in big games and you’ve got to capitalize on those,” Bechtel said. “I was proud of them for coming back to that 3-2 point. That fourth one went in and you could tell it kind of deflated right there.

“It was a great season, though. I’m proud of my girls.”

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I have covered high school sports in Richland County since 2000. Email him at curt@richlandsource.com or follow him on Twitter: Follow @curtjconrad on twitter.

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