By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Coach Tom Davidson can’t help but notice it.
The Ozark Tigers have grown up since last year. A lot.
And it showed Thursday night as the Tigers played like a veteran team in a dominant 3-0 win over recent nemesis Glendale.
“We feel like we have some depth this year,” Davidson said. “We took some lumps last year because a lot of these kids were sophomores. One more year and them growing up a little bit more…it’s a different atmosphere this year. They’re much more mature and understand each other even more.”
Troy Davidson scored the decisive goal in the final minute of the first half amid a scrum in front of the net.
TK Stine and Magnus Kulsend tacked on second-half goals as the Tigers improve to 2-0 on the season. They’ve outscored opponents 9-0 thus far.
Players are noticing Ozark’s growth as well.
“We have more focus and have had better practices,” said Stine, who came to Ozark during the 2017 spring semester. “We’re building good teamwork and we’re communicating.”
The Tigers won 16 games last year but had six one-goal losses. Much of the lineup was sophomores and juniors.
“We went from a younger team to now we’re an older team,” Tom Davidson said. “In high school soccer, having that maturity level is huge. It just is. I can’t describe it, but just leadership wise, they’ve been there.”
Beating Glendale was nothing to overlook either. Dating back to 2014, the Falcons had won four straight one-goal outcomes against Ozark – including a double-overtime win in 2016.
“Tonight, it was like, ‘Oh my gosh, finally,’” Tom Davidson said.
Ozark had a sizeable advantage in shots and possession in Thursday’s match, but had nothing to show for it until the final minute of the first half.
Stine played a ball from the right side into the box. The ball was deflected into the air, where a leaping Troy Davidson was able to finish.
“I was like, ‘That’s going in, baby,’” Stine said. “As soon as I hit, I knew it was a good ball and (Troy) finished it.”
Added Tom Davidson: “Sometimes, scoring right before the half like that turns it into a whole different ball game. You’re there at halftime, you’re up 1-0 instead of it being 0-0. I was thinking, ‘What am I going to say when it’s 0-0?’”
Stine scored in the 59th minute to make it 2-0. Kulsend’s goal in the 70th minute clinched the outcome.
Glendale threatened multiple times in the final 20 minutes. One sequence saw Ozark’s goalkeeper on the ground after making a stop, but Mitch Stephens’ rebound shot was denied by an Ozark defender.
The Falcons also hit the crossbar in the 63rd minute, and Ozark goalkeeper Sean Smith made the save on the ensuing rebound shot.
Glendale (0-1 overall) travels to St. Louis this weekend to face St. Louis University High (Aug. 31) and DeSmet (Sept. 1). Ozark returns to action next week with home matches against Branson (Sept. 4) and Springfield Catholic (Sept. 6).