Belleville West girls soccer coach Jason Mathenia wasn’t at all pleased with his team’s defense last weekend at the Adidas Tournament of Champions in Burlington, Iowa.
The Maroons won two of three games against top opponents, but their defense yielded an uncustomary three goals.
West had no such difficulty Tuesday when it returned to Southwestern Conference action. Sophomore Kacie Kinnikin and senior Carli Tastad scored goals and the Maroons’ defense was on task in a 2-0 victory over O’Fallon.
“We’ve been giving up some goals lately,” Mathenia said after his team improved to 12-3-3 overall and 3-1-1 in the SWC. “We gave up goals up in Iowa. Even in the wins, we gave up goals. So our message tonight was, ‘Hey, can we be smarter? Can we play better defensively?’ We got one (goal) a half. I’m happy about that and I’m very pleased with them keeping the shutout.”
Unfortunately for O’Fallon, its offense malaise continued. The Panthers (7-6-5, 2-2-1) were blanked for the fifth time in a row and the sixth time in the last seven games.
“The first five minutes, I thought we played pretty well,” O’Fallon coach Craig Dippel said. “We moved the ball well, the energy was there. Then it went away. We didn’t create a whole lot. We had some (energy), but it wasn’t nearly enough what we needed.
“The second half was a little bit better, but it was still a struggle to get anything on goal, to attempt to score. We’re just missing that goal-scorer. We’ve moved people around; we’ve changed the formation a little bit. It’s not a lack of trying. It hasn’t been there for us.”
Kinnikin scored to make it 1-0 at 13 minutes, 3 seconds. Kinnikin controlled a ball in the box that O’Fallon was unable to clear, tapped it into space and ripped a shot inside the left post.
“The very first goal, that was patience up there in the box,” Mathenia said. “They were under pressure; Sydnee (Carroll) was coming and they coughed it up right to Kacie’s feet. She received it and scored it. I refer to it as box composure. Don’t panic once you’re in there. Act like you’ve been there before. Kacie’s been really good lately. Something has sparked a fire under her.”
Tastad leaped high to finish a header in traffic on another well-placed corner kick from sophomore Lexi Miller to make it 2-0 at 71:41. Miller collected her team-high 19th assist.
“The second goal, that’s something we work on all the time and take pride in, and that’s our corner kicks and any type of dead ball,” Mathenia said. “(Miller) does very well. She’s leading the team in assists and 95 percent of them have come from corners. The other couple have come from dead balls out wide, that type of thing.”
Tastad nearly missed finishing a corner kick by Miller in the first five minutes, but her header sailed outside the left post.
After Kinnikin scored, O’Fallon had a chance to tie the game when sophomore Gabby Goerke beat two defenders to a bouncing ball and made a run 35-yard run down the middle of the field. Goerke’s shot, however, was smothered by freshman keeper Bailey Redden near the left post.
The Panthers’ next good chance came in the 53rd minute when Hannah Averick flicked a shot outside the left post. From that point, West’s defense was in lockdown mode.
“It’s been a drought this year,” Dippel said. “We’re OK from the 18 to the 18. It’s the final third (when we struggle). Belleville West is a good team. It’s just frustrating. It seems like it’s been three weeks since we’ve had a goal. It’s hard to win games when you’re not scoring.”