Down 2-0 late in the first half Monday night at Larue County, the Lady Cougar soccer team responded with three unanswered goals to win their season-opener 3-2 over the Lady Hawks.
It was a complete turnaround for the Lady Cougars as the Lady Hawks were controlling the action in the early going. They kept the ball in the Grayson County end nearly the entire time in the first half.
That control paid off in the 10th minute of the game when Lady Hawk junior Shelbi Brooks won a ball from Lady Cougar defender Elizabeth Priddy about 30 yards in front of the Grayson County goal, drove in and beat goal keeper Emily Strader, who dove but could not stop the shot.
The Lady Hawks continued to pressure the Grayson County goal, but were unable to crack Strader again until there were about six minutes left in the first half. Awarded a corner kick, Brooks sent a ball right to the goal mouth, where freshman Hannah Murray was able to get her body on the ball in a crowd, and put it past Strader to make it 2-0.
Grayson County then got a break that turned the tide. With a free kick from about 45 yards out, senior Kendra Goodman sent a soaring ball toward the Larue goal. Junior Morgan Uebelacker was able to win the ball from a Larue defender about five yards in front of the goal. Uebelacker turned to her left and put a shot on goal. She did not get much of the ball, but just enough to trickle it past the diving Larue goalie, Kasey Wells, to make it 2-1.
That’s the way the first half ended, and when the teams came back on the field, all the momentum had shifted. After Larue missed a corner opportunity in the first minute, Goodman found herself with another free kick just past midfield. She sent another powerful ball onto the Larue goal. Junior Bailey Reed just missed getting a head on the ball, but it bounced right to sophomore Tara Dunaway, who put a soft little chip shot just over the outstretched arms of Brooks to even the game at 2-2.
Larue put some pressure on the Grayson County goal over the next few minutes, but the defense was sound and Strader made a couple of easy saves.
That brought it to the 56th minute when Goodman was again pressuring the Larue goal. She sent a shot right on from about 20 yards out that Brooks had to dive to get a hand on. The ball whanged off the upright and Brooks lost control. Reed was johnny-on-the-spot and took the ball from Brooks and shot it into the net to put the Lady Cougars in front for the first time, and as it turned out, to stay.
It was all Grayson County after that as the Lady Cougars kept constant pressure on in the Larue end. Time after time the Lady Cougars came up with shot opportunities that couldn’t find the net. As time wound down, though, it didn’t matter as the Lady Cougars would not allow the Lady Hawks out of their own end.
Head coach Rusty Ray said he was proud of the effort his girls put forth to overcome the early deficit, but felt his girls needed to put the effort in the first half of games like they did in the second.
“If we do the things we need to do early enough, we can keep the pedal to the metal throughout the game,” Ray said.
Ray also said that sort of effort begins with practice.
“You can’t have bad practices and expect to come out and turn it on in games,” he said. “If you put forth the effort during the week in practice, it’s going to show up in games.”
Ray said he thought the difference in the second half was the team’s depth, something that he hasn’t had the luxury of having since he has been coach.
“We were able to keep five different midfielders getting in and out of the game,” he said. “Then at the end we were able to substitute three in and three out every three or four minutes to keep everyone fresh.”
That really was the difference as the Lady Cougars controlled the ball completely over the last 15 minutes of the game.