On the surface, the Out-of-Door Academy and Cardinal Mooney girls soccer teams played to a 1-1 tie and everyone departed Coach John Heath Field at Austin Smithers Stadium satisfied.
Well, that was not exactly the case.
The visiting Thunder were under siege the majority of the match.
“We were,” Out-of-Door coach Bill Unzicker said. “Definitely a very talented team Mooney has.”
The undermanned Thunder packed in their defense and did not mount much of a threat.
“We were playing back because we were missing a couple of our players,” said Unzicker, notably high-scoring forward Natalie Gorji, who leads the team with 17 goals, 10 more than any other Thunder player. “It gave an opportunity for some of the other girls to have some looks. That’s our future. We wanted to be more defensively minded and not take too many risks.
“We absorbed a lot.”
Meanwhile, Cardinal Mooney was on the attack for most of the night. Yet, the Cougars trailed 1-0 at halftime thanks to a perfectly placed goal by Madysin Opstal.
The senior heading to Wake Forest sent a perfectly placed 30-yard shot into the far corner of the net in the 28th minute.
“If you were going to place the ball, that’s where you place it,” Warne said.
It was the eighth goal of the season for the midfielder.
“That was a nice goal. That’s kind of her forte,” Unzicker said. “We were lucky to have the opportunity and she executed it the way she normally does with those shots. And it paid off for us.”
It was one of the few sustained possessions for the Thunder.
“The first half, even with all that possession, we started off slow for whatever reason,” Cougars coach Graham Warne said. “Our touches weren’t great. We were ball watching a little bit. We were reacting to the ball and not reacting to the space around us.
“The second half we picked it up. But in front of the goal. I’ve got to give the goalkeeper credit.”
Out-of-Door senior goalie Chloe Spingler made 22 saves, many from close range.
“Phenomenal. She played great,” Unzicker said of Spingler. “You’ve got to give kudos to her. If you keep letting people shoot on you, you can only get so many, especially against a team with talented players who can shoot from long range. You’ve got to be very cautious from that.”
The only one that eluded Spingler came off the foot of sophomore Lauren Golon, who took a cross from sophomore Abigail Veitkus and tied the game in the 57th minute.
“Very, very frustrating,” Warne said. “We always used to be an attacking team and score lots of goals. Now we are more a defensive team.
“It was a frustrating night. The girls are frustrated because they know we totally dominated. They’ve got to be happy and we are frustrated.”
Warne reminded his team of last year’s meeting with Out-of-Door, when the Thunder scored three second-half goals in a 4-1 victory.
“At least this year we got something out of the game,” Warne said. “They wouldn’t have slept good tonight. A tie is a tie.”
And Cardinal Mooney is on a streak of ties. Thursday’s was its fourth straight deadlock after a four-match winning streak. The Cougars (6-1-4) have not lost since a 2-1 setback to Lemon Bay on Nov. 20.
“We’re on a streak of ties,” Warne said.
Out-of-Door (7-1-1) will take the draw. The Thunder’s only loss was a 1-0 setback to Saint Stephen’s on Nov. 28.
“They pretty much dominated most of the game, possession-wise and time on the ball,” Unzicker said of the Cougars. “That’s what makes us better, especially when it comes to January. In January you have to play teams that are bigger and as talented. That’s how you are going to get yourself prepared for the playoffs.”
Source: Herald Tribune