By Tyler Thompson (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
SPRINGFIELD — The Glendale Lady Falcons soccer team (17-7-1) hasn’t had much luck on their own turf this season.
But the deep, offensively versatile team wasted little time in finding the net Tuesday at the Class 3 sectionals, as Glendale left its field with the 5-1 win against Carl Junction: setting the stage for a rematch against Union (25-1-1) — who defeated the Falcons 3-0 at last year’s sectional round.
Previously this season, the Falcons were 6-5 at home, while authoring a 6-0 record on the road, and a 5-2-1 record at neutral venues.
But on Tuesday, the Falcons received one goal from freshman Leah McDonald and one from senior Alexi Martinez, while the defense pitched the first-half shutout: giving the Falcons the 2-0 tone-setting half for which they were hoping.
“I saw my shot. I saw my opportunity so I took it,” McDonald said of her first-half goal.
While the stakes continue to hit a new level as the postseason progresses, McDonald simply looked at it as one more opportunity to hit her field.
“We just went into it like any other game. We just came out here and did what we had to do, and even though we were up 2-0 by half, we came out like it was 0-0 and fought until the end,” McDonald said.
Often times, a two-goal lead at halftime can serve as a precursor for a complacent effort in the second half, but for a roster complete with year-round athletes, the Glendale players — freshmen included — are too savvy to allow a letdown — offensively and defensively.
“Well, the game can change. Even if you are up 5-0 at half, if they get that goal, that momentum can change and get you caught back on your heels. So, you have to keep the mindset and keep going and push until the end.”
The Falcons utilized and highlighted just about every section of the field: as freshman Paige Margreiter continually found space down the nearside sideline.
From a schematics standpoint, the Falcons nearly went into the postseason match blind, without a formal, extensive scouting report.
“We really hadn’t seen them, so we really didn’t know much coming in. We saw them in the very beginning of the season, but teams can change. We looked at their scores, but we just didn’t know. We went out and played like it was the toughest team we were going to play.”
Hosting a sectional-round game varies from the norm regarding the regular season ambience, sure, but one variable in particular played into the Falcons’ hands.
“It is great because you have a little pride. You want to win. You don’t want to lose at home,” McDonald said. “It’s like, it’s your house and you want to protect your house. It gives more of an edge.”
While the quick-strike offense is vital to the team’s .680 winning percentage this spring, the play of freshman goalkeeper Taylor Thompson continues to impress.
Thompson displayed her athletic prowess, covering wide angles in the box and showing reckless abandon for her body as she climbed the ladder.
“She is our biggest fan. She is everybody’s biggest fan,” McDonald said of her freshman counterpart. “She is the first to bring you up whenever you’re down. She has won games for us.”
Head coach Jeff Rogers — who was enshrined into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame a little more than two years ago — has the luxury of employing an equal-opportunity roster, as the offensive production can come from anywhere at any juncture.
“It is a huge luxury, because if you coach long enough, you go through years when you don’t have that,” Rogers said. “We are starting seven freshmen and two sophomores, but this group plays together a lot over the offseason.”
In the second half, Emma Miller stole the show, finding the net twice.
Her final goal came from the 30-yard line with eight minutes remaining in regulation.
“Emma is our leading goal scorer,” Rogers said. “So if teams sit on her, then other kids are stepping up, and that is what we saw tonight.”
Rogers’ Lady Falcons are a threat year in and year out, and the coach with 900-plus wins to his credit shares the spotlight.
“One of my secrets to longevity is good players and good parents. I have been blessed to have great kids, competitive kids,” Rogers said. “This is a good example of that.”
Rogers hopes to get two key defensive players back by Saturday’s quarterfinals match at Union, but either way, it will be a physical battle for a trip to state.
Added Rogers: “We are going to need everybody. We got to play them in the tournament here, [and] they beat us 4-0. Their top goal scorer didn’t score. When you talk about teams that spread scoring, they are one of those teams.”