The Rolla girls soccer team (0-3) opened their season with their annual tournament on Friday and Saturday, March 16-17. The Lady Bulldogs were winless over the weekend, but saw some solid growth over the span of three games.
The Lady Bulldogs opened the tournament against Borgia Friday afternoon. After a quiet first 30 minutes, Borgia closed out the opening half with a goal in the 31st minute to take a 1-0 lead into the half. They then opened the second half with a goal in the first minute to stretch that lead to 2-0. The Lady Bulldogs bounced back with a goal from Ryleigh Grommet off an assist from Maddie Lucas in the 56th minute, but they couldn't find another goal. Borgia put the game away with another goal with five minutes left in the game to seal a 3-1 victory.
Rolla didn't have much of a chance for a break, as they had to turn right back around for a matchup with Springfield Catholic later in the evening. Catholic came out firing, scoring in the second and 18th minutes to put Rolla on the back foot right away. Kendall Mara was able to break through as the rain poured and found the back of the net in the 31st minute off an assist from Grommet, but Catholic still had more in the tank and scored another goal with four minutes to go in the half, taking a 3-1 lead into the break.
Rolla was much better in the second half against Springfield Catholic. They turned up the aggressiveness and it paid off in the 64th minute when Ariana Stanislawski was able to break free from the Catholic defense and tapped the ball past the keeper for a goal, cutting the deficit to 3-2. Rolla had some chances late, but couldn't find the back of the net, falling 3-2.
The Lady Bulldogs kept moving in the right direction with a solid game against Northwest Saturday morning. Rolla was without one of their best players for the game, as Carlee McCormick took a big fall on the slippery turf in the rain on Friday night, so head coach Mike Howard shifted the lineup around. The new lineup came with some growing pains, as the young Lady Bulldogs let in a goal late in the first half. Northwest used that goal to go into the half with a 1-0 lead.
Rolla was able to jumpstart their offense in the second half after coach Howard shifted some players around to put three forwards up top. That shift led to a few great runs and nearly led to a goal in the 53rd minute when Elsa Wise lined up for a free kick just outside the keeper zone. Her shot was high though, so Rolla was still looking for that first goal. Unfortunately, momentum shifted back to Northwest, as they scored just past the outstretched arm of Kelly Cates to extend their lead to 2-0.
The Lady Bulldogs didn't back down, though, and kept making run after run in the final 27 minutes of the half. That goal finally came after Rolla had a pair of corner kicks in the last minutes of the game. Wise's first kick was turned away, but her second serve found Grommet, who snuck it passed the keeper for a goal. That goal came in the 79th minute and Rolla just ran out of time, falling 2-1.
At the end of the day, Rolla has a young team that needed to grow a little bit in their first few games. The Lady Bulldogs have five freshmen and seven sophomores. All those players took steps in the right direction over the weekend.
"(I take away) Positives, I think. We're 0-3, but it's like I told the girls, if we wanted to win games, I could put together a schedule to win some games," said coach Howard. "We're just trying to get better. It's a process this year, we're learning what kids can and can't do. What they can't do is just as important as what they can do...it's a good weekend for us."
One of those young standouts was Evie Rodgers. She was a huge piece for Rolla as a midfielder and a defender, showing some good versatility and a lot of fight packed into a small frame.
"Evie Rodgers, what a pleasant surprise that was," said the Rolla head coach.
Coach Howard isn't worried about the 0-3 record, he just wants to see his team improve. This is a tough tournament that Rolla doesn't tend to find many wins in, so he knows the girls will be able to bounce back.
"We never do well in this tournament. Last year we won one game and the year before that, I don't know if we won any. It is what it is," said coach Howard. "It's a good way to start the season and we've got Jeff City on Monday, so it doesn't get any easier. Hopefully we get Carlee back and healthy.
"I'm happy," continued the Rolla head coach. "You never wanna lose games, but we got better each and every half. It's not like we lost 5-0, 6-0, 7-0, we were a goal away in every game. We'll get there."
The Lady Bulldogs will hit the road for that matchup with Jefferson City on Monday, March. 19.