There will be better days ahead for head coach Brett McKenzie as head coach of the Ottumwa girls soccer team.
In fact, one of those days might be today.
On Thursday, however, the first day coaching his team in a game started out with all sorts of promise as McKenzie watched his team come out creating more opportunities then the visiting Mount Pleasant Panthers.
The Ottumwa girls had the fans at Eric Werthiem Field ready to roar at the sight of the Bulldogs scoring their first goal and grabbing their first lead of the season.
Instead, the Panthers withstood the early Bulldog attack and countered with their own. Holly Long turned the tide almost on her own, scoring the first goal of the night in the 15th minute to put Mount Pleasant on top before assisting on a another goal and adding a second of her own in the second half. It all added up to a 4-0 win for the Panthers, who, unlike Ottumwa, had one game under their belt coming off a 5-0 shutout of Centerville on Tuesday night.
“It was pretty much a team effort, but it was great job on the defensive end as well as the offensive end,” Long said. “It really helped to have that first game with our teamwork. I think everyone really know their role a little better after one game.”
While the final score wasn’t what McKenzie was looking for in his debut as head coach of the Bulldog girls soccer team, he wasn't one to dwell on the loss. Besides being proud of the effort, being prepared for tonight’s makeup road game at Oskaloosa was also immediately on McKenzie’s mind following the season opener.
“We have a lot of positives that we can take away from this game, especially with a game that we have coming up,” McKenzie said. “We should be able to take away a lot and have a good showing (tonight) in Oskaloosa.”
“I’m not taking this loss to hard because we have another game coming right up,” sophomore Daylin Latham added. “We were making some good passes early on in this game. I think we can keep that going.”
Latham was right in the middle of the Bulldogs' early offensive attack Thursday, leading Ottumwa with six shots on goal. No kick was bigger than the shot by Latham less thsn 10 minutes into the game that came less then a few yards from Mount Pleasant goalie Lauren Hillman and was driven right into Hillman’s midsection as Latham nearly put Ottumwa on top early.
“We were really passing the ball well and getting really good looks at the goal,” Latham said. “If we keep playing good early in the game, it’s going to help keep us playing good throughout the game. It's only going to keep building our confidence.”
“We did a good job keeping the field wide and making good runs. We gave ourselves good opportunities. We just didn't score. It happens,” McKenzie added.
Other scoring chances also were snuffed out by Mount Pleasant defensively. Offensively, Long didn’t need more then a little bit of daylight to put the Panthers on top as the Panther senior dribbled past a defender and beat Bulldog goalie Averi Cash five minutes after Latham’s near miss to suddenly put Mount Pleasant on top despite Ottumwa seemingly having the advantage on the field.
“Our team definately picked some speed after I got that first goal,” Long said.
Attempts to find an equallizing goal, or any goal, were there for Ottumwa in their opener on Thursday. The Bulldogs and Panthers both put 15 shots on net in the contest, forcing Hillman and Cash to make a combined 20 saves in the contest.
But while Mount Pleasant looked more confident as the game wore along, the Bulldogs (0-1) seemed to struggle to finish on their opportunites due to a lack of uncertainity.
“The first two goals we gave up were ones we gave up because we got caught off guard on long passes. Those are mistakes you make when you haven’t had played a game,” McKenzie said. “It’s the little things we’ll learn as we go. We’ll learn from our mistakes, but we have a lot of positives we can take away from this game.”
Mount Pleasant 4, Ottumwa 0
M.P. 2 2 — 4
Ott. 0 0 — 0
Mount Pleasant — Holly Long goal, 14:14.
Mount Pleasant — Sarah Vandorin goal, 35:34.
Mount Pleasant — Amber Hainline goal (Long assist), 44:26.
Mount Pleasant — Long goal, 54:46.
Mount Pleasant: Total Shots — 15 (Megan Myers - 3). Total Saves — 9 (Lauren Hillman 9). Total Fouls — 0.
Ottumwa: Total Shots — 15 (Daylin Latham - 6). Total Saves — 11 (Averi Cash - 11). Total Fouls — 0.