2008 season ends in district semi-final loss to Kickapoo

The Nixa Lady Eagles traveled to Joplin’s Junge Field Tuesday evening to take on Kickapoo in the Class 2, district 12 semi-finals. The contest was a lopsided affair. The Lady Chiefs easily defeated Nixa for the second time this year. The final score was 5-1.

The Lady Eagles looked tired and generally uninspired. Having played late into the previous evening, and playing eight games in the preceding fourteen days, there was simply nothing left to give. Even so, there were periods of play where Nixa noticably has closed the gap between themselves and the area’s elite. On a good day, Nixa could beat Kickapoo – that much was clear. But it is still also clear, that if the two squads played ten times, Kickapoo would likely win eight of the matches. Nixa is capable, but not yet consistent.

The 2008 season was difficult for the Lady Eagles. That might have been anticipated with such a young group of players. Nixa started three seniors and two juniors. But, what I will take away from watching them play was there willingness to keep battling. Frankly, who could have blamed the players if they would have thrown in the towel midway through the season? They simply refused to give up.

The hightlight of the season were two games against the area’s best teams: Catholic and Waynesville. The ladies played to their full potential and proved to themselves that hard work, teamwork, and smart play can accomplish great things.

The Lady Eagles will have plenty of experience next year and a solid core of players on which to build. Goalie Kristen Miller played very well in her freshman year. She has the potential to develop into one of the area’s best in the next few years. Sweeper Luce Crim, stopper Maddie Chandler, and outside-defender Hannah Barber will anchor the defense. The middle of the field will see Jo Pavlowsky and Kesley Haist return. Games are generally won or lost in the middle of the field and Nixa will be strong here. Pavlowsky can run all day and improved her soccer skills dramatically in 2008. If she continues to work, Haist may become one of the best all-around players Nixa has ever produced. On the outside Frerichs, Owen, and Pierce have good speed and excellent stamina. Owen also sported a good foot which will be used for corners and restarts. Kelsey Bartell was very entertaining to watch this year. Hustling on every play, she lead by example. I would look for her to team up with Ashlyn Robillard up top next year. Ashlyn plays the ball well into space and Bartell has the potential to develop into a forward that can put pressure on a defense.

For the vast majority of high school athletes, graduation will be the end their competitive playing days. A small, select group will continue on into college. Again, the vast majority of those players will not go on to the next level.

The lessons learned through sport do not leave a player however. Much thanks should be given to coaches who instill in their players the habits of competitors: hard work, working together towards a common goal, not quitting when things are down, losing with class, and winning with grace.

The Lady Eagles learned these lessons this year. In the final analysis, that is what will last. Thank you and goodbye to seniors Stephanie Allen, Lauren Hillmer, and Jacklyn Finley. Much success in all you do. You will be missed.

Nixa pulls off dramatic win in opening round of Districts

The Lady Eagles returned to Joplin’s Junge Field on Monday evening for the opening round of the Class 2, District 12 playoffs. The game against Joplin rematched the two Lady Eagles’ teams. In the previous week, Nixa and Joplin battled evenly up to the final two minutes of regulation when Joplin scored and gained the victory.

Monday’s game was eerily similar to the earlier contest. Once again, play was back and forth between the two squads, moving quickly from the defensive line to the forward line. Play was generally disorganized for both teams, but hard fought.

Joplin opened the scoring in the 17th minute when Stephanie Taylor crossed the ball to the right side of the 18 box. #10 Lauren Coppel volleyed the ball out of the air from 15 yards into the net. The quick strike did not allow Nixa keeper Kristen Miller time to move on her line to the far side. It was a good play, excellent strike and gave Joplin the early advantage.

Later in the half, freshman Courtney Frerichs helped Nixa get on the board. On a ball deep in Joplin’s defending third, just above the top of the 18 box, Frerichs put substantial pressure on the Joplin defense. A deflection off of Frerichs resulted in the ball rolling towards Joplin’s goal. Another defender now was running toward her own goal to the ball. As she attempted to clear before Frerichs and other Nixa players pounced, she inadvertently struck the ball into her own net. The hustling play by Freirichs resulted in Nixa tying the score 1-1.

The scored would remain tied at 1 throughout the second half, first overtime period (15 minutes in district playoff) and second overtime period (15 minutes). During the final 70 minutes of play, both teams had their chances. It also became obvious that Nixa was in better condition than Joplin. The Joplin squad was clearly drained by the end of the second overtime. Nixa was also visibly tired, but not to the same degree as Joplin.

Shootouts had not been kind for Nixa on the 2008 year, with losses to both Neosho and Willard. This time was different. Nixa scored on their first three shots: senior Stephanie Allen, senior Jacklyn Finley, and freshman Anne Pierce. Joplin was unable to connect on any of their first three shots as Nixa keeper Miller made two saves and one shot went wide. It was a thrilling victory. The 110 minutes of play would take its toll however.

Final Score PKs
Nixa 2
Joplin 1

Lady Eagles give Waynesville all they can handle

The Nixa Lady Eagles traveled to Waynesville Thursday evening to take on the state power Lady Tigers. The Waynesville Lady Tigers have only been defeated at one tournament this year. That tournament was a national quality event in Iowa. Also, #10 senior forward Katie Pritchard, is number two on the list of the state of Missouri’s all time, career scoring leaders.

Nixa proved once again that they are capable of beating any team on any given night as they gave Waynesville everything they wanted and then some. The game started with Pritchard and her Lady Tigers teammates pushing the Lady Eagles into their defensive third. Waynesville got off several shots in the first ten minutes, but most were contested and not particularly dangerous for Nixa freshman goalie Kristen Miller. You could see the Lady Eagles gaining in confidence after the initial barrage proved fruitless for their opponents. As more time passed, Nixa began holding possession themselves and were able to hold the ball in Waynesville’s half, getting off a few shots of their own.

By the middle of the first half, the play was fairly even between the two teams. Nixa’s Miller gave her team a shot of energy when she took on Waynesville’s Pritchard midway through the first half. Pritchard was able to slip by her Nixa defender just above the 18 box and break towards goal. Miller came out about twelve yards off her line and met Pritchard who attempted to beat her on the dribble and shoot one to the open net. Miller would have none of it however and dove to the ball at Pritchard’s feet. Miller enveloped the ball and took a kick to the face in the process. It was a great save and further frustrated the Lady Tigers’ players and fans.

Senior stopper Jacklyn Finley would send the Lady Eagles to half with a 1-0 advantage when she scored on a direct kick in the 39th minute. The kick was taken at the D, just above the penalty area. Finley hit the ball perfectly. It was struck hard and flew over the wall, which was positioned about ten yards in front of the goal line, under the cross bar and over the goalie’s outstretched hands. It was an excellent shot and should prove to be a lasting memory for the Nixa senior playing in her last regular season game.

There was a certain foreboding as the second half began. The Lady Tigers would surely fight back and have the ability to score in bunches. Waynesville, in fact, did come out very aggressive to open the second half. Again, play for the first ten minutes was mostly in Nixa’s defending third of the field. Katie Pritchard was able to score in this half however. She scored on a PK after a penalty was called on Nixa in the box. The free kick was struck hard and with confidence. It tied the score 1-1.

About five minutes later, in the 56th minute, the Lady Tigers crossed a ball from the right side into a crowded 6 yard box. #3 junior Lynette Newcomb was able to get the ball to her feet and shoot it past the group of defenders and past a shielded Miller. The score gave Waynesville a 2-1 lead.

Nixa responded like champions. Instead of dropping their heads, the Lady Eagles were determined to fight hard. They put Waynesville back on their heals and controlled possession after getting behind. In the 68th minute, senior forward Stephanie Allen was able to get the ball and out run the Waynesville defense. She came clear about 25 yards from the goal and was rushing toward the goalie. At about 10 yards from the goalie, Allen was tripped by her pursuer and earned the Penalty Kick. Allen calmly finished the play as she beat the goalie and tied the score 2-2.

The rest of regulation and the first overtime period were primarily controlled by Waynesville with an fairly frequent counter attack by the Lady Eagles. In the last minute of the second overtime, Katie Pritchard won the game for the Lady Tigers. She received the ball deep in Nixa territory after a sustained offensive possession by Waynesville. With her back to the goal, Pritchard was able to turn at the top of the penalty area, juke her defender and gain enough space to rifle a ball with her right foot to the far left side of the goal. The golden goal finished the contest.

The game was played on Waynesville’s artificial turf. The speed of play was fast and the Lady Eagles improved greatly in their shape from their earlier artificial turf game against Joplin. That is important because Nixa takes on Joplin at Junge Field in the first round of district play on Monday night.

Each and every Nixa player played hard, played well, and should be proud. It was a tremendously entertaining match. Thank you ladies for your hard work, skill, and no-quit attitude. It was a lot of fun!

Final Score 2nd OT
Nixa 2
Waynesville 3

Lady Eagles lose to Willard in PKs

The Nixa Lady Eagles lost their third in a row Tuesday night when they hosted the Willard Lady Tigers. It was the type of game that has become all too familiar to the Nixa players, coaches, and fans; close but no cigar.

Nixa controlled the majority of possession and the game was primarily played in Willard’s half. Unfortunately, the Lady Eagles could not capitalize. There were chances, but not any finishes.

On the bright side, the Lady Eagle defense, and goalie Kristen Miller were able to shut out the Lady Tigers throughout regulation and both overtime periods. Willard had few scoring opportunities save a couple of corner kicks.

The game was ultimately decided by PKs. It was the second time of the season that a Nixa game was decided by PKs. The other time came at Neosho and Nixa was also defeated there. Against Willard, the team’s fate would be the same. After four rounds, Willard had gained a 3-1 advantage as senior Stephanie Allen scored the lone PK for Nixa. The final fifth round was unnecessary.

Final Score PKs
Nixa 0
Willard 1

Nixa falls to Joplin on goal in last two minutes

The Joplin Lady Eagles hosted the Nixa Lady Eagles on Monday evening. It was Joplin’s senior night and the game was played at Junge field. Junge field is the where Joplin’s football games are played. It is a beautiful stadium with a state-of-the-art artificial turf.

Both the size of the field (much larger than the Nixa community center), and the speed of the turf caused problems for Nixa. The size of the pitch, especially the width, exposed Nixa’s occasional struggles with shape and spacing. The speed of play on the quick turf caused even further problems. The ball moved quickly from attack to counter attack, defending third to attacking third, and side to side.

Nixa’s midfield expended considerable energy in the first ten minutes of the game chasing the ball all over the field and were subsequently winded. Then, as the game progressed, their tired legs struggled. If Joplin made a quick run at Nixa’s defense, the midfield dropped back into the defensive line. But, on the fast surface, Nixa would often clear the ball to an empty midfield. When the ball would ultimately find a Nixa forward, the midfield was challenged to join in on the attack. Conversely, when Nixa organized an offensive possession, frequently the midfield would get caught too high. A Joplin counter attack was then left to be defended solely by the three defenders and the sweeper. This type of back and forth play occurred often throughout the game, and it was typically one teams’ forwards taking on the other teams’ defenders. It made for an entertaining match, but not as fundamentally sound as a coach would like.

Joplin scored the opening goal of the match in the 30th minute. #13 forward Kelsey Sanders put high pressure on Nixa’s junior sweeper Luce Crim. It was the type of play that was just highlighted. The Nixa defense was far behind the midfield as the midfield had moved up. The ball came to Crim. She attempted to beat Sanders on the dribble, but Sanders fought her hard and gained possession. When senior stopper Jacklyn Finley came to help Crim, Sanders was able to split the two and get behind them. From there, freshman goalie Kristen Miller came out to challenge the play, but a smooth Sanders placed the ball low and to the right for the goal. The half ended with Joplin leading 1-0.

Nixa’s only goal came in the second half. It was earned by senior forward Stephanie Allen and was probably the goal of the year. Allen had gained possession of the ball in Nixa’s half of the middle third. She was behind the forward line as she had come back to help on defense. When she gained possession, she had lots of room to roam as both teams were tired and spread out from one end to the other. Allen was quickly dribbling at near-full speed as she attacked a Joplin defender near midfield. She was able to beat her by playing the ball behind the Joplin player and running on to the ball. However, another Joplin defender engaged her about 30 yards from the goal. Both players were running at full speed and locked shoulder to shoulder. Allen maintained her dribble close to her feet. When the ball was near the penalty area, the Joplin goalie charged. Allen made a step over move and leaned into her shoulder-locked defender. The lean gave her some space and put the ball on her left foot with the goalie charging. A beautiful strike, low and to the far post, beat the keeper and hit the inside of net along the far post. The goal tied the score 1-1.

The match seemed destined to go to overtime periods when Joplin earned a corner kick with two minutes left in the game. #10 Lauren Coppel took the kick and sent it near post. The ball was cross bar high and near post long. Several players ran on to the ball as did goalie Kristen Miller. As Miller jumped to catch or punch the ball, she was bumped. She now awkwardly attempted to punch the ball away, but it deflected off of her hand into the goal instead. It was an unlucky play from Nixa’s standpoint. Miller played well the entire game and deserved better. But it highlights why coaches say good things happen when the ball is put on goal.

It should also be noted that freshman Kelsey Bartell played a very good game at forward. Bartell has played more often at outside-midfield, but was up top for most of this match. She made many good runs into the Joplin defense, frequently beating one defender and getting off a shot or cross. Her energy and speed kept Joplin on their heels and took some pressure off of Allen, who was marked for the whole game.

Final Score
Nixa 1
Joplin 2

Lady Eagles take step back in loss to West Plains

The Nixa Lady Eagles hosted the West Plains Lady Zizzers Friday night. It was Nixa’s fourth game of the week and the ladies looked tired when the game started. Unfortunately, their tired play in the first twenty minutes cost them the game.

However, the loss itself doesn’t tell the whole story. Nixa showed resolve, fought hard after getting down, and deserves credit for not getting discouraged. These characteristics are many of the qualities of winners. Of course, there are other qualities too; such as beating the teams you’re supposed to beat and playing hard for the full 80 minutes. But still, the Lady Eagles are getting better and it was nice to see the fight in the last twenty minutes of the first half and especially in the second half.

Nixa easily won the possession advantage and play was in the Lady Zizzers’ half for most of the game. The lack of scoring, while reminiscent of earlier in the year, was not due to lack of aggressiveness or players not finishing attacking runs. Instead, the ball was simply not bouncing the Lady Eagles way.

West Plains opened the scoring in the 16th minute when #10 senior forward Michelle Esterle put pressure on Nixa junior sweeper Luce Crim. Crim tried to clear the ball out, but Esterle’s high pressure resulted in a Lady Zizzer goal. The attempted clear was deflected off of Esterle’s shin guards and bounced behind Crim. Esterle was able to sprint behind the defense and earn a 1 v 1 with Nixa goalie Kristen Miller. Esterle was successful as she shot low and hard as Miller challenged.

The last goal of the evening was earned by West Plains on a corner kick. A well-placed ball found Esterle, who claimed her second goal.

Final Score
Nixa 0
West Plains 2