The Rolla soccer team (7-9-3, 5-3) entered the week with a chance to claim at least a share of the Ozark Conference crown, as they faced Glendale and Kickapoo on Wednesday and Thursday, April 1-2. The Lady Bulldogs played great games on back to back nights, but lost both games in overtime 1-0 to end their chances to win the conference crown.
Rolla's offensive struggles continued this week, as they couldn't find the back of the net in either of their conference games this week. Despite the lack of scoring, Rolla played well in both games. Kate Brand got the start in goal against Glendale on Wednesday and played lights out. She recorded a shutout through regulation, but was caught in a pickle in overtime. The Lady Bulldogs had a corner kick in the final minutes of the first overtime period and Glendale was able to clear the ball out. The ball got over the heads of Rolla's defenders, who came up field in an attempt to score on the corner. That left Brand in a 1-1 scenario and she couldn't make the stop and the Lady Falcons scored the game winner with just over a minute left in overtime.
The Lady Bulldogs had the same luck against Kickapoo on Thursday. They had another strong defensive effort, this time with Eden Potter in goal. She made a few very nice saves in regulation, including a save against the right post midway through the first half. Kickapoo followed up with a second shot after the save only to have the shot hit the crossbar.
Rolla had a handful of chances against the Lady Chiefs, but couldn't quite connect on a goal. The game went into overtime for the second straight night and Rolla's keeper was again put in a tough spot. Kickapoo was able to connect on a game-winner by dropping a long shot just over Potter's outstretched hands. The shot snuck under the crossbar to send Kickapoo home with the win.
The Lady Bulldogs have allowed just two goals in conference play this season and none of those goals have come in regulation. Their other Ozark Conference loss came in shootouts against Camdenton.
"I wish I knew exactly what to say to them," said head coach Mike Howard after the game. "They're giving maximum effort, we're just unlucky. We played the two best games we've played all season back to back. To lose them both in overtime is frustrating. They just have to understand and keep in mind that the schedule is difficult and we're playing well."
While it's easy to be frustrated in a season where Rolla just can't seem to get a ball to bounce their way, coach Howard is just trying to make sure his girls keep their heads down and keep playing good soccer.
"That's what we preach to them all the time, trust the process and believe that it's going to work out," said the Rolla head coach. "There's no records on District Championship trophies, they don't put the team's record behind it or in the school where they put them. Trust the process and keep working hard to get better, which we're doing. We're getting better every single day."
Coach Howard has also appreciated the great effort in goal. Rolla has two keepers that have both played well enough to deserve time in the net and they're both pushing each other to get better.
"They're making it really tough on us to decide who to put in there," said coach Howard with a laugh. "Kate played awesome last night and Eden played awesome today. We give up a goal on a break away yesterday and tonight the girl just hits a bomb. Pretty tough saves on either one of those."
The Lady Bulldogs will wrap up regular season play next week. They'll start with a trip to Rock Bridge on Monday, before home games against Central and Osage on Wednesday and Thursday. Coach Howard just wants to see his girls continue to improve as they prepare to face Marshfield in the first round of Districts on Monday, May 13.
"We've got Rock Bridge on Monday. Rock Bridge beat Kickapoo 4-1, so it doesn't get any easier for us at all," said the Rolla head coach. "They're keeping it in perspective though, so I think we'll be fine."