Big hits, kicks and jumps
The Highland boys soccer team has not fared well when it has started slowly in games so far this fall.
On Thursday evening, the Bulldogs started sluggishly, and Civic Memorial’s Nic Vaughn made them pay for it.
Vaughn, a senior forward, scored goals at the 23 and 31-minute marks of the first half, staking the Eagles to a 2-0 lead.
Senior goalie Zac Tincher and the Eagles defense made that lead stand up in the second half as Civic Memorial handed the Bulldogs a 2-0 Mississippi Valley Conference loss at Bethalto Sports Complex.
The empty effort on the field and on the scoreboard did not sit well with HHS coach Jay Robertson as his club took their first shutout loss of the season in slipping to 2-2 overall and 0-1 in MVC action.
“We got beat to quite a few balls in the first half and by the time we were down 2-0, we had to try to push and get some stuff going,” Robertson said. “In the first half we have just got to get better. We were chasing the ball in the first half.”
Civic Memorial (3-2 overall, 1-1 in the MVC) came out aggressive from the opening faceoff and seemed a couple of steps quicker than the Bulldogs in the opening minutes, getting after free balls and 50-50 balls with abandon.
“We took some bad touches and rushed some things, but we knew Highland was going to play the full 80 (minutes) so we couldn’t just lay back and act like the game was over,” CM coach Derek Jarman said. “We preach that in practice that if you’ve got a 50-50 ball with their man, you better win it in their third of the field because that’s going to create chances where they can kick the ball out of bounds or maybe you get a free breakaway.”
Vaughn got his first big chance of the evening when he slipped past the HHS defense deep into the goal box, and nailed a shot past HHS goalie Luke Stieb for a 1-0 lead with 17:13 left in the first half.
Just eight minutes later, Vaughn got loose on another breakaway and beat Stieb, making it 2-0 with 9:03 left in the first half.
“He’s big for us,” Jarman said of Vaughn. “He’s our leader and wherever he goes, we go and he’s played a lot of positions for us and tonight we slid him a couple of nice balls.”
Civic Memorial’s defense settled in during the second half, as the Eagles made sure Tincher was relatively unchallenged in goal. Tincher made four saves as he recorded the shutout. Parker Scottberg assisted on both of Vaughn’s goals.
The Bulldogs had more chances and played with much more urgency in the second half and that pleased Robertson. But he does expect more from this group going forward.
“I thought (in) the second half, we picked up the pace and got after it a little more and I thought we came to play in the second half,” Robertson said. “Hopefully, we’ll put that bad (first) half behind and start moving things forward.”
Highland is scheduled to resume action at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 7, at Father McGivney.