By Jordan Burton (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The drought is over…
After winning four district championships from 2010-2015, the Carl Juncion Lady Bulldogs ended a four-year drought by knocking off COC rival Webb City,2-1, to claim the Class 3 – District 12 championship Wednesday at McDonald County.
“We talked about tradition before the season and how we had the stretch of winning district championships and what it would take to get back to that,” said fourth year Carl Junction coach Ed Miller. “We wanted to get back on that track this season and make our community proud but also make ourselves proud with our effort and I think we did that. I’m very proud of their effort and what they left on the field tonight.”
In a game that was back and forth and saw several momentum swings and multiple yellow cards, the two biggest plays of the night were made by Carl Junction senior Addie Tholen.
Tholen sank a PK in the first half and sudden-death overtime that proved to be the difference in the match.
Making the goals uniquely huge is the fact that Tholen had a game earlier in the season where she missed a crucial PK.
But on Wednesday, Tholen was able to find the bottom right corner of the goal in the first half. In OT she found the bottom left corner.
“We made two PKs tonight and Addie hit both of them, going to a different side on each one,” said Miller. “It’s a bitter sweet revenge for her because she had a PK early in the season that she missed against Neosho. She was devastated. So she worked on it.
“It’s great to see a kid struggle with something and work on it until they make it a strength. She put in the time and corrected her mistake and it paid off tonight. I’m extremely proud of her.”
Tholen’s first goal was followed by an equalizer by Webb City sophomore Meliah Metcalf with 90 seconds remaining in the first half.
The second half was 40 minutes of scoreless, physical back-and-forth soccer.
“It was a huge moral boost to go into halftime with a level score,” said Webb City coach Nick Harmon. “I felt like we’d be able to continue that momentum in the second half. We didn’t capitalize on chances or create enough. They played great defense in the half so credit to them.”
For Webb City (8-12), Wednesday’s narrow defeat comes with a silver lining. The Lady Cardinals – who lost many key players from last year’s district championship team – was able to make another run with a reloaded roster featuring several freshmen and sophomores.
“It’s bittersweet because despite all the turnover and youth on the field, we felt like we were the better team,” said Harmon. “Every time we matched up they found a way to knock us off our game. Again, credit to them.
“But we’re looking forward to the future and with this result in mind, we feel like next year we’ll be even better. We fully expect to win this thing and set the record straight.”
Carl Junction (13-10) now extends its season on the strength of what had been its Achilles heel; games decided by one goal.
The Lady Bulldogs went winless in such games a year ago, but flipping those results has been the catalyst to this season’s turnaround.
“We went from four wins to 13 and I think it really shows how much winning becomes a mindset,” said Miller. “We still had many of those one-goal games but the difference is having that experience in those situations and again learning from some of those mistakes.”
Carl Junction now awaits the winner of Glendale vs. Willard in the Sectional round on May 21.