Muddy conditions can’t keep Moffat County soccer down in first home games
Though their field was dirty and the weather dismal at times, the Moffat County High School girls soccer came out stronger than when they began in the past week.
The first home games of the year were rough to say the least, yet it was an important learning experience for the Lady Bulldogs as they faced the Grand Junction Tigers and Delta Panthers.
Craig’s long-standing tradition of a soggy, boggy field to begin the spring didn’t change this year, with only a few days of practice on the field before the Thursday opener.
Coach Nathalie Boelen noted that some extra effort from soccer parents to clear the last of the winter snow helped ensure recent games would happen.
Even so, the 5A Tigers made for a daunting opponent to get things rolling, and the Junction team wasn’t slowed by the muddy terrain. A 3-0 start within 10 minutes grew to 7-0 for the visitors by halftime as a weary Bulldog squad took to the sidelines.
A Tiger attack on goal had been well met by MoCo goalie Bailey Lawton, whose lack of hesitation in upending GJ girls to snatch the ball whenever they came close taught her foes to stay clear.
The resultant tactic for the Tigers from there was to take Lawton out of the equation, blasting high shots from long range repeatedly. While Lawton added nine overall saves, with enough attempts, the Tigers hit net three more times to put the final score at 10-0 and end the day with 25 minutes remaining thanks to the CHSAA mercy rule.
There was no sugarcoating the loss for Boelen.
“We’ve still got to instill that sense of playing all 40 minutes in each half and play every ball like we’re still in it,” she said. “I’ve told them before, all 11 of you win a goal and all 11 of you lose a goal.”
The coach’s goal was to see her players come back stronger from the defeat for the coming run at home, which turned out to be shorter than expected. Due to a schedule mixup, a Friday game against Coal Ridge had to be rescheduled, giving the Bulldogs an extra practice day before the weekend match with Delta.
With the field slightly drier and athletes feeling more prepared, Saturday was a far better outing for the Craig crew, though not without its hiccups.
Delta didn’t bring the thunder on offense that the Tigers had, though it didn’t take long for them to start getting on the scoreboard as Abby Reedy put in the first score for the Panthers at eight minutes, followed three minutes later by Missa Webb.
Lawton again kept the strikers from staying too confident, rushing them repeatedly.
She noted that as a country girl, a teenager running at her is nothing compared to ornery livestock.
“I get kicked around by cows,” she laughed. “You’ve gotta get out there, and if you get hurt in the process, it’s just part of being a goalie.”
Most of Delta’s goals were right place, right time, including a rebound shot off the post by Aubree Andre that caught the Bulldog defense off-guard, and the 6-0 halftime score had them in largely the same mindframe as two days earlier.
Yet, the difference was how they responded from that point.
Though the Dogs’ work to get the ball on the other end of the field didn’t pay off as much as they would have liked, notching only two shots during the day, a tighter, tenacious defensive effort for MCHS kept the Panthers from gaining too much traction in Bulldog territory.
The Panthers had to find windows of opportunity to score again, with a well-placed header by Webb off a Delta corner kick getting them to 7-0.
Later, a Panther penalty kick put the pressure back on Lawton, who successfully deflected the shot, which from there bounced up to the crossbar and into the net.
Lawton had 24 saves altogether in the 8-0 finish, which Boelen dubbed a great improvement compared to Thursday, especially late in the game.
“So much better. Awesome second half, everyone,” she told the team after the final whistle.
With eight seniors on the squad, plus a great many freshmen and sophomores, captain Terry Gillett said the blend brings with it a variety of talent the team is still looking to balance.
“The younger girls bring a lot of enthusiasm,” she said. “We’ve all really improved so far this season.”
Fellow senior Naomi Torres said the newfound effort Saturday was encouraging, providing they can keep up the strengths.
“I think we just need to talk more, have harder passes and not give up,” she said.
MCHS girls are next scheduled to play on the road April 11 against Colorado Rocky Mountain School.
The National Junior High Finals Rodeo will be bringing in the top cowboy and cowgirl athletes from June 23 to 29 in Huron, South Dakota.