After a regular season full of trouble scoring, the Rolla girls soccer team has finally gotten hot when it counts.
The Lady Bulldogs traveled to Camdenton on Wednesday for the Class 3 District 10 Championship seeking revenge against the Lady Lakers for a regular season loss in PKs. Rolla only needed regulation to exact that revenge as a pair of goals from their senior captains pushed the Lady Bulldogs to a 2-0 victory and a District crown.
The Lady Bulldogs set the tone right out of the gate, keeping constant pressure on Camdenton. Rolla had a few strong looks on shots from just outside the box early in the first half, but couldn't quite connect. Camdenton didn't have a shot on goal until the 30th minute, but the shot was turned away by Kate Brand in goal.
The Lady Bulldogs finally broke through four minutes before the end of the half, as Carlee McCormack took a pass from Ellie Rodgers at the top of the box and launched a shot on goal. The ball arched right over the outstretched hand of Camdenton's keeper, under the crossbar and into the back of the net. The Lady Bulldogs were ecstatic and breathed a collective sigh of relief after failing to score in regulation during their first matchup with Camdenton.
"It was so relieving," said McCormack after the game. "We've been waiting for this moment all season."
Rolla had one more look before the half ended, as Elsa Wise was fouled just to the right of the top of the keeper zone. Kendall Mara put up an excellent shot on goal that went over the keeper's hands, but the shot went just to the left of the goal and Rolla had to settle for a 1-0 lead at the break.
Camdenton came out with one of their best scoring chances of the game early in the second half, as they wanted to prove that they weren't going to roll over. Aeryn Kennedy came in and fired a strong shot on goal from the left side, shooting to the far end of the net. Brand was able to make a quick step and dive, getting both hands on it to make an excellent save to keep Rolla's shutout in tact.
After the early chance from Camdenton, the Lady Bulldogs controlled the second half. Rolla had a prime opportunity to add to their lead in the 55th minute on a corner, but Rodgers couldn't quite get to a tipped ball in the middle of the keeper zone. Camdenton had a free kick six minutes later, but couldn't get a shot on goal.
Two minutes after the free kick, Rolla put the game away for good in the 63rd minute. Elsa Wise took an excellent pass from Abby Turner and booted an easy goal from the top of the box, pushing Rolla's lead to 2-0. While Rolla had the two goal lead, Camdenton still had one more push left.
The Lady Lakers had their final scoring chance of the game two minutes, as Kennedy stepped up for a free kick. She connected on a good shot, but the ball hit the side of the net to keep the Lady Lakers off the board.
From there, Rolla ran out the clock. Camdenton never had the chance to get the ball near the Lady Bulldog goal and Rolla sealed a 2-0 District Championship win. After a season filled with frustration, Wise and her teammates were thrilled to see their hard work pay off for a District Championship.
"It's the best feeling ever. We've had such a rough season and I've been so drawn into myself and frustrated and I feel like all of us were," said Wise after the game. "Coach Howard kept saying over and over that sometime, some way things were going to go our way and it finally did."
The District championship is the second for the senior class, which is led by the two goal scorers, McCormack and Wise. The duo won a title their freshman year and have been itching to get back ever since. The title is the 30th for head coach Mike Howard between the boys and girls teams, but he said this one might just be the most special.
"We've won a few District Championships over the years and this has to be probably my favorite one," said the coach that founded the girls soccer program in Rolla. "This group, they competed and battled all year long. It's awesome to see them rewarded for it. They did everything we asked them to and really, we played one of our better games of the season."
The District Championship is so satisfying for coach Howard because of what Rolla fought to get there. Rolla's record currently sits at 10-11-3, despite only allowing one regulation goal in conference play. The Lady Bulldogs have had to grind through a tough regular season schedule and a heaping helping of bad luck, but they stayed positive and came through when it mattered most.
"We're 10-11-3, but I've told them all year long that we could easily have 15 wins," said coach Howard. "It's just been one of those unlucky years, but it doesn't make any difference. I tell them all the time in practice to trust the process, trust the schedule, it'll get us where we want to be. You saw it today. Our schedule is so hard, but our kids just come out and play. That's our 11th shutout of the season and we've only won 10 games. I'm proud of them."
This win is particularly satisfying for those seniors who still have at least one more week to be a Lady Bulldog.
"I love these girls so much, I've played with them my whole life," said McCormack. "To get to continue this season and go on to Sectionals is a once in a lifetime experience."
Rolla will face Union at Union for their Sectional on Tuesday, May 21. Union beat Rolla 10-0 earlier this season, but six of those goals came against the Rolla JV players in the second half.