After a 2-2 start to their 2017 campaign, the OTHS girls soccer team has fallen on hard times.
Still seeking their third victory, the Lady Panthers will face off against Gibault and Chatham-Glenwood this week before entering tournament play in the St. Dominic’s Shootout.
Coach Craig Dippel’s squad were competitive in games against perennial power Nerinx Hall, Alton, Alton Marquette and Geneva but could not produce enough offense to secure a victory.
Against Nerinx Hall, the Lady Panthers turned in, perhaps, their best game to date, denying their Missouri opponents on early scoring opportunities to take a 2-1 lead into the final 10 minutes of the game. Nerinx Hall finally broke through with a pair of late goals to eke out a 3-2 win.
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Opening Southwestern Conference action against the Alton Redbirds, the local booters suffered the same fate — playing Alton on even terms until the later stages of the second half. Behind the offensive efforts of Sam Stutsman and a solid defense led by Tamia Cash, the Panthers pulled to within one of the Redbirds, 3-2, with less than three minutes remaining. The OTHS girls turned up the offensive effort in an attempt to score a game-tying goal, but the attempt resulted in an Alton breakaway and an eventual 4-2 loss.
“Our girls played a solid game against Alton but had to take some risks in the final minute, which back-fired on us,” Dippel said. “They were able to intercept a cross field pass and beat our defenders to the net, scoring their fourth goal in the last five seconds of regulation play.”
Offense took a holiday when O’Fallon took on Geneva. With only a few scoring chances, the Lady Panthers were blanked 2-0. The power outage continued when the OTHS girls plunged into a series of SWC battles during the past week. Granite City was the first team in the string of league games, and the Warriors controlled the tempo from the start, blasting in two early goals and denying the Panthers much of an offensive attack. O’Fallon finally did manage a single tally, but it was too little and too late, the Lady Panthers falling to the Warriors 4-1.
Southwestern Conference leader Collinsville was next up, and the Kahoks showed the OTHS girls no mercy. Featuring a high-powered attack, Collinsville took command of the game in the first half and didn’t let up to secure a 6-2 victory.
“It’s no accident that Collinsville is leading the Southwestern Conference,” Dippel said. “They are always in attack mode, and they have the players to keep constant pressure on their opponents. We couldn’t match their scoring barrage.”
In O’Fallon’s most recent outing against Belleville East, the local booters appeared on the verge of breaking their losing streak.
“Our girls played really well in the first half of the East game,” Dippel said. “To their credit the series of losses has not deterred our kids. They are still working hard. We had two shots hit the crossbar early in the game — those narrow misses changed the momentum. Instead of grabbing a 1-0 or 2-0 lead, the score remained tied at 0-0 until halftime”
After dodging a couple of bullets in the first forty minutes, the Lancers took advantage of their reprieve, blasting in two early goals in the second stanza. The Lady Panthers countered with a single tally to cut the lead in half, but Belleville East rallied for two additional goals for a 4-1 win.
Despite the rough road through the first half of the season, Dippel remains upbeat about his squad’s chances of turning things around.
“Our record is not what we would like it to be at this point in the season, but we have had excellent efforts in most of our games and have been competitive,” Dippel said. “Tamia Cash has been a bright spot for us as a defender. She has a high soccer IQ, is very quick and has received praise from almost every opposing coach. Sam Stutsman is our leading scorer with 10 goals. She has given us a go-to player offensively. Our expectations are to finish strong and prepare for post-season play with a positive attitude.”
The Lady Panthers will need to strengthen their resolve with the St. Dominic Shootout looming on the horizon. The OTHS girls are scheduled to start tourney action next Monday against Villa Duchesne. Pool play will continue the rest of the week with contests against Cor Jesu (Wednesday) and Francis Howell North (Friday).