If it is difficult to score goals in the game of soccer, the players representing Camdenton and Rolla defied that stereotype Thursday night.
The Lakers (9-5, 3-2 Ozark Conference) hosted the Bulldogs (9-3-1, 5-0 Ozark Conference) in a conference clash and it was an offensive clinic that saw eight total corner kicks, 27 total shots and nine total goals. At the end of 80 minutes, it was Rolla who scored the majority of those goals in a 6-3 win to stay undefeated in conference play.
Rolla senior Olivia Gonzales, who paced the Bulldog offense with three goals and recorded a hat trick, said the team was just focused and once the foot was on the gas, the last thing they wanted to do was let up.
“We just kept going,” she said after the match. “No matter what we kept going and did not stop. That was our mentality to just keep going and try to win.
“We know what we want and we go for it. We wanted to win so wwe went out and tried to finish our best and our hardest,” the senior added.
Rolla dictated the pace and a majority of the possession in the first half and it did not take too long to find the first goal. Just a little over eight minutes in, senior Morgan Gabriele drilled a shot at the top of the box that slipped past the keeper to make it 1-0.
However, Camdenton quickly countered just three minutes later when senior Natalie Schulte got behind the Bulldog defense and crossed the ball to freshman Aeryn Kennedy who proceeded to quickly tap the ball in from close range. It was the first of three goals between the duo who were on the same page all night as Schulte managed to help her teammate record a hat trick of her own.
“They’ve been playing well together throughout the whole year,” Camdenton coach Chris Byington remarked. “Aeryn has been breaking out of her shell and ‘Nat’, good grief, I love ‘Nat.’ She works her tail off all the time and I can never expect anything less of her… I cannot say enough about both of them.”
Rolla coach Mike Howard certainly took notice.
“Those two forwards gave us problems all night long and when we made a mistake they made us pay for it and finished every opportunity they got except for a couple early that they had,” he noted.
“Camdenton is a very difficult place for us to play historically and it is never easy to come here and get a win. Coach Byington does a good job, the girls play hard and hats off to their two forwards because they are a handful,” Howard added.
The two sides stayed even until Gonzalez scored her first goal in the 35th minute. The senior created some space near the top of the box and launched an 20-yard shot that floated just under the crossbar into the left corner to give her team the lead for good.
Overall,the Bulldogs recorded 10 shots in the first half and nearly scored on three other occasions. Howard was pleased to see the offense in rhythm, but noted that the team needs to make the most of the opportunities that present themselves.
“At halftime we talked about the fact that we were getting opportunities and were just not finishing. We have done that the last couple games in not putting people away,” the coach recalled. “When you have opportunities to get ahead of somebody in a conference game you need to finish them off. We did not necessarily do that today, but at the end we played 80 minutes and it is a win on the road.”
His team certainly got the message in the second half. The Bulldogs continued their successful formula of getting the ball wide to the feet of Gabriele and fellow senior Adelaide Brow on the wings who proceeded to launch crosses into the box and create multiple scoring opportunities. Although the offense only put up six shots in the final 40 minutes, Rolla made the most of them.
Gonzales scored her second goal in the 58th minute on a rocket shot just outside the box that deflected off the keeper and freshman Kendall Mara made it 4-1 just two minutes later with an 18-yard shot that found the top right corner.
“Adelaide is a beast and we knew that Rolla was going to be good and knew they were going to go wide, cross it up and try to slot it through,”Byington said. “They did well and give them credit. I think we defended somewhat well, but we can tighten up a few things. It is always going to be tough with Rolla… and history shows that we go back and forth all the time so it is what it is.”
Despite a nice three-goal cushion, Camdenton did not let Rolla get too comfortable. The Lakers quickly stormed back with Kennedy scoring off of a Schulte corner kick in the 62nd minute and scoring another goal two minutes later on a rebound with the initial shot coming from Schulte to make it 4-3. The two nearly hooked up again as Kennedy connected with a header on a Schulte cross that just went wide of the goal.
“I give my hat off to the girls. I mean good grief they worked their tails off,” Byington said of the comeback attempt that nearly came to fruition. “I love this group of girls and we always talk in practice that you have to keep pressing. It does not matter the score, you have to keep going and keep fighting. On the bright side, we played a good team in Rolla and scored three against them. Most teams don’t do that.
“I think we are close to being there, but we are not there yet so it is what it is. As long as our best game is our last and we are ready by districts,” Byington added.
After a little scare, Rolla decided to add some insurance. Sophomore Elsa Wise finished a cross that just eluded the outstretched arms of the keeper with just over five minutes remaining and Gonzales put the icing on the cake by finishing a corner kick three minutes later to create the final margin.
Honestly some of those goals I don’t even know how they went in,” Gonzales said of the hat trick. “But I’m glad they did and thanks to those who helped me out.”
Moving forward, Howard said his team needs to clean things up defensively should they want to remain undefeated in conference play.
“I think offensively we played really well. I mean six goals in a conference game we’ll take against anybody,” he said. “Defensively we obviously have to clean things up. We cannot give up three goals to anyone. We played Webster Groves two weekends ago, one of the best teams in the state, and we gave up one goal so that is what we have to get back to.”
Meanwhile, Byington said tomorrow is a new day and his team has to quickly put this loss behind them.
“We play tomorrow so you have to flip it,” he stated. “I told the girls, ‘Hey let it rest on you tonight, but wake up tomorrow and it is a brand new day and a brand new team.’ Tonight was rough, but there were some great things that we did. You just have to keep working with it, keep going and keep pressing. The Ozark Conference is never going to be easy so we’ll go see how we do tomorrow at Lebanon, but I’m excited and we’ll get after it.”
The Lakers were scheduled to visit Lebanon Friday night at 6 p.m., and up next is a home game against Ozark Conference foe Parkview on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. Rolla will be back on the road Tuesday night to visit Lebanon at 5 p.m.