Courier Staff Writer
Tuesday night in Ottumwa, several prep athletes were trying to run as fast as possible at the Don Newell Invitational.
Who would have figured one of the best times posted in the City of Bridges would have been posted at Eric Wertheim Field, the home of the Bulldog soccer teams.
That's where Fairfield's Claudia Sloat put the ball across the finish line, or the goal line, in just 11 seconds flat to kick off the girl/boy doubleheader action between the Trojans and Bulldogs. It would also kick start a big night for Sloat and the rest of her Fairfield teammates, who put up a season-high six goals to double-up Ottumwa in a 6-3 shootout on a cool Tuesday night.
"That's probably one of the fastest starts we've ever had," Sloat said. "I didn't anticipate starting off like that. I was determined to start fast, but I didn't think it would happen."
"I'm not sure you can have a faster start. Maybe if you score off the kick off," Fairfield head girls soccer coach Roeland Hekker. "I liked this kink of start anyway because we had team play. We got the kickoff and made some nice passes up the sideline to get Claudia in position to go at the goal."
While one coach had plenty of reason to enjoy the start to the night on the pitch, the other lamented such a quick lapse in defense. First-year head coach Brett McKenzie would see plenty more of that throughout the early minutes of the action from his Ottumwa players.
"I've been there before when you get hit with an early goal. It's never fun when you're on the wrong end of it," McKenzie said. "It really was a tale of two halves. In the first half, made too many mistakes and it cost us. We turned it around in the second half, but we didn't come ready to play a full 80 minutes."
Fairfield was far from done offensively, which they would have to be as Kathy Lopez was ready to get her own big night off to a quick start. The Ottumwa junior answered Sloat's quick strike by scoring the tying goal in the fourth minute, setting the tone for a night that would be filled with plenty of scoring.
"There were simple things we didn't execute and Fairfield is good enough to make you pay when you don't execute," McKenzie said. "We showed we can play with Fairfield when we execute, but if you don't come ready to play from the start you're going to put yourself too far back to win."
Fairfield would counter right back, and then some. The Trojans, with Sloat playing the role of distributor, scored the final four goals of the opening half as senior Tori Keltner scored back-to-back times on passes from her junior teammate within the opening 10 minutes of play. Kayla Septer added a goal in the 16th minute and a second goal from Sloat less then two minutes before halftime gave Fairfield a commanding 5-1 lead.
"It made us so confident to keep attacking after getting that first goal that early on," Sloat said. "We just picked up our intensity. It was nice to set up the next couple of goals. It's nice to get back and do what I normally do by setting up our offense."
Fairfield, as it would turn out, needed every one of those four unanswered goals in the second half as a man advantage allowed Ottumwa to regain momentum in the second half. Lopez got the Bulldogs back on the comeback trail, scoring her second goal of the night midway through the second half as Fairfield began to shift their focus to a more defensive mindset.
"Kathy's been a good player for us all year," McKenzie said. "She's fast and she's dangerous when she shoots the ball. She makes us a better team and she's going to continue making us better all season long."
Ottumwa kept attacking late in the match, creating more chances and finally cutting the Trojans' four-goal lead in half as Lopez completed the hat trick in the 70th minute, bringing the Bulldogs back within 5-3 with just over 10 minutes to go. After missing two more chances to get within one goal in the final minutes, Fairfield (4-2) finally put the game away when Huma Liptak scored in the 78th minute on the Trojans' 21st shot of the night.
"We weren't comfortable until Huma put in that final goal," Hekker said. "One thing we did differently is we finished at the net. We capitalized on our chances. We had a much higher percentage of shots on goal. Hopefully that's something that can continue for us throughout the season."
Ottumwa (2-3) will look to regroup on Thursday as the Bulldogs head to for their toughest road test yet this season at West Des Moines Valley.
"The biggest disappointment is we showed in the second half of this game what kind of team we're capable of being," McKenzie said. "That's the kind of team we have to show up and be like on Thursday right from the start."
Fairfield, meanwhile, heads to Keokuk on Thursday.
Fairfield 6, Ottumwa 3
Fairfield 5 1 — 6
Ottumwa 1 2 — 3
Fairfield — Claudia Sloat goal, :11.
Ottumwa — Kathy Lopez goal, 4:00.
Fairfield — Tori Keltner goal (Sloat assist), 4:53.
Fairfield — Keltner goal (Sloat assist), 8:51.
Fairfield — Kayla Septer goal, 16:57.
Fairfield — Sloat goal (Huma Liptak assist), 38:12.
Ottumwa — Lopez goal.
Ottumwa — Lopez goal, 69:22.
Fairfield — Liptak goal, 77:13.
Fairfield: Total Shots — 21 (Keltner 7). Total Saves — 7 (Keri Schwarz 7).
Ottumwa: Total Shots — 10 (Lopez 4). Total Saves — 13 (Averi Cash 13).