By SCOTT JACKSON
Courier sports writer
---- — OTTUMWA — The goal in soccer is to put the ball in the back of the net.
Chariton’s Kourtney Nichols took it one step further on Tuesday night at Eric Wertheim Field. The Charger senior put the ball beyond the back of the net, so much so that it led to a delayed celebration of what proved to be a game-winning goal against the Ottumwa girls’ soccer team.
“I was pretty sure it went in the goal, but I wasn’t sure when I saw it rolling outside like that,” Nichols said. “I was asking if it went in the goal and my teammates were telling me it went in, but it went through a hole.”
“We were all asking ‘Is it a goal? Is it a goal?' Finally, the referee told us it was a goal. That’s when we all started celebrating.”
Nichols’ second goal of the night, coming with just under six minutes to go in regulation, snapped a 1-1 tie and lifted Chariton to a 2-1 victory over Ottumwa on Tuesday night. The loss was the second-straight home game in which a late goal cost the Bulldogs a victory.
OHS head coach Brett McKenzie, however, felt the start of the match made more of a difference than the exciting end.
“In the first 10 minutes, we didn’t come ready to play,” McKenzie said. “We kind of took over control, but that mistake in the first 10 minutes and that lack of intensity killed us. They got just a couple opportunities all night and they capitalized on it.”
Nichols’ first goal, coming in just the seventh minute of the match, left OHS searching for an answer for almost 49 minutes. Finally, midway through the second half, junior Daylin Latham found the answer for the Bulldogs by powering a kick from long distance past Charger goalie Baylee Morris.
“Claire (Keith) passed it to me and all I did was go around the defender, which was a little surprising,” Latham said of her first goal this season. “Once I got around the defender, I just shot it in with my left foot.”
“That was a great goal she scored,” Nichols said of Latham’s tally. “To be that far away and be able to put it in, that was pretty awesome.”
The tying goal seemed to truly awaken the Bulldogs, which spent the next 10 minutes of the match firing in shot after shot on goal. For the match, OHS outshot Chariton 11-8.
“I know when I scored the goal, my momentum definitely went up,” Latham said. “When my momentum went up, it seemed like everyone’s momentum started to go up.”
Despite the renewed vigor of the Bulldog girls, Morris was equal to the challenge. The Chariton goalkeeper made 10 saves in the contest including several that kept OHS from taking the lead in the second half.
“She’s new to Chariton too. This is her first year on our team,” Nichols said of her team’s junior goalkeeper. “We haven’t had her in goal in a varsity match before this year, but she’s a great goalie that always gives us a chance to win.”
Even though Ottumwa had Chariton back on the ropes somewhat, the Bulldogs could not take their first lead of the night. That allowed one big charge by Chariton to allow Nichols a shot to put the Chargers on top. The Chariton junior fired a kick just past OHS goalie Averi Cash with 5:49 left in the second half to give the Chargers a 2-1 lead.
“We had our opportunities and we did a good job putting the pressure on in the second half; we just couldn’t get that go-ahead goal in,” McKenzie said. “I felt like it was coming and it was just a matter of time, but once [Chariton] put that second goal past us you see it totally deflate the girls. There wasn’t a lot of time left, either, so it was going to be hard to come right back.”
Chariton (2-1) will be back on the field next Tuesday at home against Creston. Ottumwa (1-3) will look to rebound on Monday in Centerville after dropping its second-straight one-goal game.
“The more close matches we’re in, the better we’re going to be able to respond to them in,” McKenzie said. “It didn’t go our way this time, but hopefully we can learn from our mistakes and build some momentum. We’ve got a little time to fix our errors and get ready to go on Monday.”
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CHARITON 2, OTTUMWA 1
Chariton 1 1 — 2
Ottumwa 0 1 — 1
Chariton — Kourtney Nichols goal, 6:18.
Ottumwa — Daylin Latham goal (Claire Keith assist), 55:25.
Chariton — Nichols goal, 74:11.
Chariton: Total Shots — 8 (Vicki Slobodyanik 3). Total Saves — 10 (Baylee Morris 10). Total Fouls — 3 (Yellow Card – Abbie Schultz).
Ottumwa: Total Shots — 11 (Kathy Lopez 3). Total Saves — 6 (Averi Cash 6). Total Fouls — 2.