The Highland soccer Lady Bulldogs have made great strides this season and their progress has translated to more success in the win-loss column.
After dipping to 1-4-1 with a 5-1 road loss at Waterloo on March 31, Highland has went 5-2-1, with one of the losses a much narrower 1-0 home defeat to Waterloo two weeks after the four-goal setback.
Highlighting the successful stretch is the latest span in which the team has reeled off a four-game unbeaten streak at 3-0-1, and it very easily could be, and in fact should be, 4-0.
After scoring back-to-back 1-0 wins over Breese Central and Springfield Southeast to close out the Mater Dei Tournament on April 9, the Bulldogs (6-6-2) blitzed visiting Jerseyville 8-1 on Tuesday of last week, which could have very easily been sophomore goalie Morgan Zobrist and her defense’s third consecutive shutout if not for Jerseyville being awarded a questionable penalty kick.
Then on Thursday, Highland was slightly more than 13 minutes from its fourth win in a row when Mater Dei scored a controversial goal because of the officiating that resulted in the rubber game between the two rivals ending in a 1-1 draw even though it was dominated by the Bulldogs.
“Overall, I thought the girls played outstanding today and I thought we had one of our best halves,” Highland coach Josh Oswald said. “Just generally, we have been playing good soccer dating back to the 1-0 loss to Waterloo...And other than two bad balls, we should have four shutouts in a row. I can’t be happier with the how the girls have played these last four or five games. Our possession was outstanding today and it has been growing ever since that Waterloo game. The girls are just picking it up and some girls are getting more comfortable with our pieces and it’s showing. The girls are playing much better and gaining confidence we will keep building on it.”
Highland 1, Mater Dei 1
Highland shattered the ice on the scoreless draw with 12 and a half minutes to play in the first half. Freshman Kate Marti slotted a nice through pass ahead to sophomore Katie Wills who broke free from Mater Dei’s defense in the box and and raced toward the goal before booting a low shot to her right to beat Mater Dei sophomore keeper Quin Cutler. It was Wills’ second goal of the season and Marti’s third assist.
“We worked hard as a team to get that and (Marti) slipped it right in and I was there; I just had to pick a corner and get it in there,” said Wills, who notched her second goal of the season off Marti’s third assist of the campaign. “I definitely always want to finish and it felt good to do it to give my team the lead.”
Highland continued to control the play but the score remained 1-0 until controversy struck in the 67th minute. It started with Wills having a partial break and unleashing a blast that Cutler dove to the near post and deflected it out of bounds.
Instead of being given a deserved corner kick, the referee’s call ended up being very controversial.
“We all thought we were awarded a corner kick,” Oswald said. “Katie Wills had a great shot and the goalie made an outstanding save or it would have been 2-0, but the ball was tipped out of bounds. We were setting up for a corner kick so we only had our two defenders back, then all of a sudden he (the referee) calls it a goal kick. Nobody on the field thought it was a goal kick. And the refs go ahead and play and one bad bounce through our center back(fielder) and they’re off to the races on a breakaway.”
Mater Dei senior Melanie Mensing was the benefactor of the call as she got the breakaway from about midfield and ultimately kicked it into an empty net with 13:03 to go. Fellow senior Heather Schulte was credited with the helper on the goal.
“It’s just kind of heartbreaking and depressing because the girls played so well and it’s just not the outcome that they deserved. It’s really unfortunate,” Oswald said. “But you do catch bad breaks and we have to be above that and overcome that, and we still had plenty of time to score.”
Although Highland still got the better of the play in the two five-minute overtimes, the score would remain 1-1 deadlock.
Schulte made 10 saves for the Knights (8-6-1) while Zobrist stopped four shots for the Bulldogs, who return to action Tuesday with a good chance to climb over the .500 mark for the first time this year with a match at Greenville (4-10-1).
Highland 8, Jerseyville 1
After winning fairly easy with a 2-0 victory at Jerseyville 12 days earlier, the Bulldogs pulled out all the stops en route to chowing down on the Panthers with a game that all but over by the halftime break.
Highland, which improved to 2-3-1 in the Mississippi Valley Conference, was an equal opportunity goal scorer after pounding the back of Jerseyville’s net with four goals in each half. And for the game, the Bulldogs compiled more than three times the shots on goal at 25-8.
Freshman Audrey Wilke led the way after netting a hat trick to take over the team lead with four markers.
Wills and fellow sophomore Morgan Pace each contributed one goal and two assists.
Adding one goal each for the Bulldogs were junior Alisse Koishor, junior Kate Dalton and freshman Megan Ramsey. For Koishor, it was her third tally of the season while it was the first goal for Dalton, Pace and Ramsey.
Also, Zobrist dismissed seven Jerseyville shots on goal while senior Kate Sikora, sophomore Megan Rapien and freshman Jaqlyn Ferguson each had one assist.