The Rolla girls soccer team has had a busy week. The Lady Bulldogs kicked off the week with an Ozark Conference matchup against Hillcrest. That started three straight days of games, as they faced Union on Wednesday, before hosting Pacific on Thursday. Rolla won both of their home games, beating Hillcrest 3-0 and Pacific 3-2, while falling to Union 10-0.
The Lady Bulldogs got out to a great start against Hillcrest on Tuesday. Rolla opened the game with a flurry of scoring chances, but couldn't quite find the back of the net. The Lady Bulldogs had three corner kicks in the first 10 minutes and a number of other chances, before finally breaking through in the 12th minute. Carlee McCormack took Rolla's fourth corner kick of the game and kicked the ball near the top of the box. Kendall Mara was there to find it and fired a shot on goal, which was deflected in by Mercedez Carpenter. The Lady Bulldogs then connected one more time before the end of the half, when Ellie Rodgers took a pass from Elsa Wise and buried her first goal of the season to put Rolla up 2-0 at the break.
Rolla put the icing on the care in the second half when Carpenter scored her second goal of the night in the 52nd minute off an assist from McCormack. Rolla finished the shutout with split time between Kate Brand and Eden Potter in goal. Hillcrest failed to get a shot on goal in the game, while the Lady Bulldogs had 20. Rolla also had 17 corner kicked in the victory.
"I think we played really well," said head coach Mike Howard after the game. "We passed the ball really well and didn't give up any opportunities on goal really at all. Obviously we struggled on corner kicks, gotta do better on those and the final third, but at least we got some opportunities today. We haven't had a lot of opportunities in previous games. I thought this was the best we played so far."
Carpenter had a nose for the goal in the win, scoring twice. After starting the season as a defender, Carpenter spent most of the game at forward and made an instant impact. Rodgers added a goal of her own, while Wise, Mara and McCormack all had assists.
The JV won 7-1 to advance their record to 2-1-1.
After a strong win to open the week, Rolla struggled with their trip to Union. Their biggest blow didn't come on the scoreboard, as they also lost a key offensive weapon in Abby Turner. She took a ball to the back of the head and suffered a concussion and she'll be sidelined for at least a couple of weeks. Rolla was only down 3-0 at the half, but Union poured it in after the break. They added another seven goals to finish off the mercy rule win with a few minutes left to play. Rolla managed just one shot on goal in the loss.
The JV also lost 3-0.
After a tough loss Wednesday, Rolla bounced back against Pacific on Thursday. The Lady Bulldogs had a slew of scoring chances all night long, but it took them a while to connect on their first goal. After a number of good looks on goal, Wise finally broke through for a goal off an assist from McCormack with eight minutes left in the half. Rolla maintained that lead into the break.
Pacific then broke through four minutes into the second half. The Lady Indians had a golden opportunity with a free kick and were able to get a header past Brand in goal to lock the game at one. That tie was short-lived, however, as McCormack put Rolla back in front with a free kick of her own in the 51st minute. She lofted a perfect ball just over the outstretched arms of the Pacific keeper and just under the crossbar for a goal to give Rolla a 2-1 lead.
The second half continued to be a back and forth affair, as Pacific responded just six minutes later. Brand thought a Pacific shot was headed wide, so she let a ball roll past her on the ground. The ball stayed inside the post, which locked the game in a 2-2 tie. Brand was relieved by Potter, who finished the final 23 minutes in goal.
Rolla needed to catch one more break, as a number of golden opportunities to score failed to find the back of the net. They finally broke through in the 71st minute. Jaelyn Grommet took a corner for the Lady Bulldogs and served a perfect ball to Carpenter right in front of the net. Carpenter converted for the game-winning goal with nine minutes left to play. The Lady Bulldogs were able to hold on for a 3-2 win.
The JV won 1-0.
"I'm proud of them and all season they've played well. Last night's game got away from us, but that can happen against a great team pretty fast and it did," said coach Howard after the game. "Tonight we got the lead, then we'd give up a soft goal, we'd get the lead again, then let up a soft goal, but they were very resilient. I think the setbacks early in the season may play to our advantage towards the end of the year, honestly. We're going to be okay if we get behind, we're just going to keep playing."
The win was big for Rolla because they were able to find a ton of scoring chances without having Turner up top. That's going to be key to Rolla's success as they fight though a tough schedule without a major offensive weapon.
"To throw in another wrinkle, we don't have Abby today," said coach Howard. "We're trying to figure out the right combination of players and we may have found it there with Elsa and Mercedez playing really well today and creating a lot of chances for each other."
After an up and down week, coach Howard likes where his team is at. While their record isn't pristine at 3-4-3, the girls are starting to settle into their roles.
"I think everyone is starting to learn their roles and we're starting to learn what people can do and can't do. I think we're going to be okay," said the Rolla head coach. "I've said it all year long. We're 3-4-3, it's a formation in soccer, but it is what it is. I'm really proud of our effort tonight."
Rolla's busy week isn't quite over yet, as they will face off against Hazelwood Central on Saturday. The Lady Bulldogs then have a pair of road conference games at Waynesville on Tuesday and at Camdenton on Thursday.