A span of about 20 minutes made all the difference Tuesday night in Camdenton’s cold and rainy home opener against Jefferson City.
The Lakers and Jays were squared away at 2-2 after 60 minutes, but the final stretch proved costly for the home side as the visitors found the back of the net three times to send Camdenton to a 5-2 defeat.
“I think we played decent soccer and played well for 60 minutes and in the last 20 we kind of fell apart a little bit. They (Jefferson City) are a good team and coached well so they moved the ball around well and we just had to adapt to it,” Camdenton coach Chris Byington said.
“It was wet and rainy, but we have no excuses because Jefferson City had to do the same thing. Give it to Jefferson City, they earned that win tonight and we just have to fix a few things and keep getting better.”
On a night where the Jays dominated most of the possession and put up 23 more shots than the Lakers, Camdenton made the most of its opportunities early on and actually struck first. Camdenton sophomore forward Aeryn Kennedy placed the team’s first shot in the back of the net during the 24th minute of the first half when she blocked a clearance by the keeper, saved the ball from going out of bounds and regained possession to blast a shot in the net and put her team up 1-0.
However, the tactical patience and sharp crisp passes of Jefferson City soon paid off and the Jays answered just eight minutes later when Bri Campbell took advantage of a loose ball inside the 6-yard box and placed it in the goal. Then, just two minutes later, Kenzie Gourley gave Jefferson City the lead when she rocketed a 30-yard strike just under the crossbar with seven minutes remaining in the half.
The Lakers were not done yet, though. After Jefferson City made an illegal pass back to the keeper in the first three minutes of the second half, Kennedy took advantage of the 25-yard free kick and bent the team’s second shot over the wall and into the upper-left corner of the net to tie it back up.
Unfortunately for Camdenton, the Jays remained relentless and continued to keep the ball in the attacking third a majority of the night. Jefferson City’s Taylor Cook made it 3-2 with a 20-yard floater in the 58th minute while Sasha Campbell dribbled the ball past Laker defenders for an easy goal in the 65th minute and Gourley rounded out the scoring with another long-distance boot in the final 10 minutes. Camdenton senior keeper Amber Wilson recorded 14 saves, but stopping all 28 shots from the Jays proved to be easier said than done.
Meanwhile, Camdenton continued searching for ways to generate quick counter attacks and Kennedy nearly tied it up at 3 with a 30-yard blast that just missed the top right corner in the 65th minute. However, it was about as close as Camdenton would get on a night where the team finished with five total shots.
“Aeryn’s a stud and I know we can rely on her for stuff so that works out well and we trust her up top,” Byington said of the sophomore’s two-goal performance. “I think building up the ball from the back we had a few moments that looked good and I think we need to work on that. I am waiting for some girls to kind of break out of their shells and get after it, but we knew what we were getting into coming into the season and I am excited about seeing girls stepping up.”
Moving forward the coach will be looking for a little more mental toughness down the stretch, but he was not discouraged by Tuesday night’s result and is looking forward to the progress yet to be made.
“One of our team goals this year was winning the close games and this was a close game up until the 60th minute and then we tapered off. I think the biggest thing we need to build upon is playing a full 80 minutes of soccer plus more,” Byington remarked. “But we are progressing so that is a good thing. It is one of those things that is tough, but you roll with it, keep going and keep getting better.”
Due to the less than ideal conditions, Tuesday night also marked the first time the girls’ soccer team played on the turf field at Bob Shore Stadium and Byington certainly did not mind the change of venue for the home opener.
“What a great feeling playing at the stadium for the first time ever in girls’ soccer history so the girls were hyped to play,” the coach pointed out. “I know we lost, but heck, what a sweet atmosphere to play in.
“I get why guys love football,” the coach added with a smile.
Although Camdenton fell to 1-4 with the loss, the teams put on the schedule in the first few games were not done so by accident. According to MSHSAA records, the combined record of the four teams who beat the Lakers are 10-2 and a tough schedule is precisely the formula Byington desires.
“It is a learning curve. I told the girls earlier this season that the first few games are always tough, but it tells us where we are at and I would not want it any other way,” he noted. “I know these girls are mentally strong and they’ll battle through this. You sit on it tonight, forget about it in the morning and prepare for Warrensburg.”
The Lakers will visit the Tigers on Thursday with kickoff scheduled for 6 p.m.
“We have a big game on Thursday and we’ll roll with it and get after it then,” Byington said. “By the end of the season, our goal is to hold up a district title plaque.”