The St. James girls soccer team (11-8) had a tough task on their hands when they faced off against defending District Champion Southern Boone for this years' Class 2 District 9 Championship on Wednesday, May 16. This group of Lady Tigers have never experienced a District Championship game on the pitch and they took a while to adjust as a result. They put up a great fight in the second half, but fell 4-1.
"It was just a lack of experience as a team for their confidence in that situation," said assistant coach Beau Moreland. "It took us 40 minutes to start playing our game and we'd given up three goals to a team that's hard to score on. They've got a good defense and a good midfield and if you do make a mistake, they're going to capitalize on it."
Southern Boone spent the first half capitalizing on mistakes. The first goal came around the 10th minute when Kaylynn Crocker tried to stop a cross from Southern Boone. She got a piece of the ball, but it bounced off her hip and into the net to put St. James behind 1-0. Southern Boone went on to add goals mid-way through the opening half and in the last six minutes of the first half.
"It was the jitters. They were all just lunging at balls instead of doing what they knew they were supposed to be doing on the defensive side," said coach Moreland on the opening half. "Our forwards Mikaela (Donnelly) and Quinn (Paulus) were rushing shots instead of taking that extra time or looking over for the open person and finding the back of the net, they were just trying to get shots on goal."
Southern Boone was able to add to their lead with another goal about 15 minutes into the second half, but St. James kept fighting. Paulus was able to get the Lady Tigers on the board midway through the half. St. James kept the pressure up for the rest of the game, but the gap was too much to overcome and they fell 4-1. Coach Moreland was proud of the fight his girls showed in the second half.
"It was great. We've kind of adopted one of those things that a team will pick up here and there, but ours has always been 'six minutes'. We just say six minutes because we've scored four goals in six minutes before," said coach Moreland. "It's one of those things where they believe in it, they know it's true, they know we're capable of doing that and there at half, that was pretty much what we were telling them.
"To see those girls fight like that, it just shows what kind of character we have, it shows what kind of leadership our seniors instilled into the team this year," continued Moreland. "We play for fun and that's a big part of it. That's what they did, they went out there and they had fun in the District Championship game."
You never want to send your seniors off on a loss, but the small group of Lady Tiger seniors have played a huge role in turning around the soccer program at St. James. As freshmen, they won three games and as seniors, they played in a District Championship. Coach Moreland is thankful for the hard work Paulus, Hailee Story and Kyler Dautenhaun have given to the soccer program as seniors.
"Those three girls have done so much for this team and this program that it's really hard to explain it all," said coach Moreland. "These girls have been there since day one and they've believed in it and they've never let anything get them down. They've gone out and played in t-shirts as jerseys and they did it because they loved playing with each other and they loved the game. They bought into the program and they knew if they kept going and they kept putting in the work and motivating the new faces that were showing up, it was going to be a fun high school career for them."
The St. James soccer team has made huge jumps over the last few years. Last season was their first year over .500 since 2011 and they took even more steps this season by making it to the District Championship game. Coach Moreland has loved seeing this team grow in the sport.
"They wanted to work and they wanted to work for each other," said the St. James assistant coach. "It was great to see girls that had never played soccer before until their freshmen year playing at a District Championship level."