The Highland High School girls soccer team had a strong start to the season after going 3-1 last week in the Nike Bracket of the Metro Cup girls soccer tournament.
First on March 13, Highland and the host Freeburg Midgets battled to an extended scoreless draw through an extra 5-minute overtime before the Lady Bulldogs finally prevailed on a golden goal 1:14 into the second OT to snatch the 1-0 defeat.
Next, on March 14 at Freeburg, the Bulldogs battled tooth and nail with the O’Fallon Panthers in an even first half in which O’Fallon eked out a 1-0 lead. But the second half was all Panthers as they rallied for four goals to earn a 5-0 victory.
Then on March 15 at Columbia, Highland scored just past the halfway point of the first half and made it stand up for another 1-0 victory, this time over the Wesclin Warriors.
Finally, on March 16 at Columbia, the Bulldogs outlasted the Marion Wildcats 2-1 in double overtime to finish off a solid week of play with a impressive 3-1 record.
“Overall, I am very happy to 3-1 in the Metro Cup,” Highland coach Josh Oswald said. “The tournament always has good teams and qualify competition. We got three wins over quality teams with a couple of shutouts. As a team, our possession got better and the girls’ play improved throughout the tournament. O’Fallon was pretty much a thumping but the game was not as lopsided as the score would indicate. But our offense improved throughout the tournament. And to get two shutouts and only give up one goal through two overtimes in another game, I am happy with our defensive effort throughout the tournament for the most part.”
Highland traveled to Triad on Tuesday to open Mississippi Valley Conference play before playing host to Waterloo on Thursday. The Knights opened the season by going 3-0 and winning the large-school Adidas Bracket of the Metro Cup after scoring wins over Springfield (3-0), Belleville West (1-0) and Edwardsville (1-0).
Highland 2, Marion 1 (2 OT)
In a little more than 30 seconds into the second overtime, HHS senior Alisse Koishor, a Kaskaskia College recruit, sent a cross to sophomore Audrey Wilke and she buried it to the near post for her second game-winning golden goal in the four games. Wilke, who led the team in goals last year, also scored in double overtime to lift the Bulldogs to a 1-0 win over host Freeburg in the season opener on March 13.
Junior goalkeeper Morgan Zobrist, who has played all four games between the pipes for Highland, converted seven saves.
Highland never trailed in the match and lit up the scoreboard first just past the halfway point of the first half on what Oswald said was the best goal he has ever witnessed in his 12 combined seasons coaching the two HHS teams (girls and boys).
The play started in Highland’s back third of the field and five or six pin-point connecting passes later, sophomore Jaqlyn Ferguson slid a perfect pass to classmate Kate Marti, who unleashed a blast inside the far post into the side netting.
About five minutes later, the Bulldogs turned the ball over in their own end and Marion took advantage to score a fortuitous goal to even the score at 1-1.
Highland 1, Wesclin 0
With about 15 minutes left in first half, Highland junior Kallie Painter buried a free kick into the back of the net from about 25 to 30 yards out that the stalwart defensive effort and Zobrist made that goal stand up the rest of the way for the second 1-0 win of the tourney.
Zobrist turned away all five of Wesclin’s shots on goal. None of Zobrist’s saves were any bigger than a lead-saving stop she made with seven minutes to go in the game.
“The ladies really looked sharp in the first half,” Oswald said. “Congrats to the defense and Morgan congrats on the shutout. Offensively, the ladies really moved the ball well at times and a great free kick from Kallie (Painter). It was a great team win tonight and to get our second shutout in three games is a great way to start the season.”
O’Fallon 5, Highland 0
The first half was a tight battle throughout and other than the Panthers scoring an amazing long-distance shot to the far post that Oswald said no keeper could have been expected to save, it would have been a scoreless first half.
In the second half, the flood gates opened as O’Fallon got four more goals.
“But we didn’t get outplayed that badly,” Oswald said. “The score looks worse that it was. We will learn from it, use it and get better.”
For O’Fallon, Sam Stutsman netted a hat trick and an assist, while Gabby Goerke scored one goal and two assists, Lauren Kalteis added one goal, and Bri Honma stopped all seven Highland shots on goal.
Zobrist made five saves for the Bulldogs.
Highland 1, Freeburg 0 (2 OT)
Wilke scored the golden goal off an assist on a corner kick from Painter with 3:46 left in double overtime. Junior right backfielder Megan Rapien went running in as a decoy and it worked as two Freeburg players in the box went to cover her. Painter booted the corner kick to the front of the net where Wilke, helped by the two players giving attention to the charging Rapien, was there to kick it into the netting inside the near post.
Zobrist converted three saves to earn the season-opening shutout.
“It was definitely a big win for us, and we started the season on the right foot,” said Oswald, whose teams had dropped its season openers the past two years. “It was freezing out and the girls and everybody were cold, but once we scored the goal nobody felt cold anymore. It was a great game. They (Freeburg) are a solid team all the way around. It was a pretty even game. They had chances and they even had a shot ring off the crossbar in the first half, so it could have easily been 1-0 them.”
Oswald said there were definitely more positives to take away from the season opener.
“The girls played really good in different spots,” he said. “There were several occasions where the girls looked sharp and connected passes and made some nice little runs. Then there were times where we got out of shape and had some mental miscues. So there were a lot of positives and a couple of negative, but I am confident we can fix those. So overall, I am happy with the performance and pretty impressed with our performance to start the season. We have got a lot of potential and promise.”