Big hits, kicks and jumps
It was a true case of so close, yet so far away for the Lady Bulldogs soccer team during the 2019 season.
HHS was competitive on the pitch in virtually every game this spring. Highland, which finished the campaign at 6-15-2, came up on the short end of eight one-goal losses against a demanding schedule that included the likes of Mississippi Valley Conference foe Triad, Wesclin, and Mater Dei.
That aspect factored heavily into the team’s 2019 final record.
“Obviously, I don’t think we we’re too excited with our record and normally we felt we could do a little bit better than that, but we did play a grueling schedule,” Highland coach Josh Oswald said.
Highland generally avoided any blowouts this spring, as its worst losses were 3-0 to Triad and 4-1 to Waterloo 4-1.
“I look at it this way, our worst losses all season were three goals long to Waterloo 4-1, and to Triad 3-0,” Oswald said. “In that 3-0 loss to Triad, it was 1-0 with 7:17 left and we pushed some girls up to try to score and counter and we lose 3-0. We were in every game outside of one or two games the whole season. The games could have gone either way.”
Timely scoring was the Lady Bulldogs’ biggest trouble source. HHS scored two goals or more in a game just five times during all spring.
Highland’s best scoring games came against Jerseyville, positing 6-1 and 4-0 wins against the Panthers.
“Unfortunately, we just didn’t have a whole lot of firepower, and we couldn’t find the back of the net of a lot of times, but there was never a time where I didn’t feel like our girls we giving ‘max’ effort,” Oswald said. “They did all year.”
While the offense struggled, defense was Highland’s strong suit.
Senior backs Jaida Duncan, Kealy Korte and Rachel Miller and freshman Britin Machuca gave the Lady Bulldogs a sturdy backline that helped take pressure off sophomore goalie Bella LaPorta.
“Definitely (our strength) starts with our defense with Jaida, Rachel, and Keely, three of our four seniors had played back there for the last three or four years, so there was a lot of familiarity there and continuity there with them,” Oswald said. “They just played well off each other and were able to read off of each other.”
LaPorta, who was new to soccer this season, proved very capable with a 1.34 goals against average.
“Bella was a pure athlete who came out to play soccer this year, picked it up quickly and kept us in a lot of games, Oswald said.
Senior striker Jaqlyn Ferguson posted a team-high 11 goals and three assists while providing the Lady Bulldogs their best offensive threat.
Although Ferguson graduated, Oswald expects big things next year for the offense from freshmen forwards Katie Augustin and Madlyn McCall. Augustin scored four goals and McCall had two goals and four assists.
“Katie Augustin and Madalyn McCall basically both played all 80 minutes of every single game (this season),” Oswald said. “I expect bigger things from those two. Especially next year.”
To record more wins next season Oswald said he believes the Lady Bulldogs will need one simple change: Score more goals.
“To be successful, we are going to have to find the back of the net more times (next season),” said Oswald.