OTTUMWA – The Oskaloosa girls soccer team was prepared for a track meet against the Ottumwa Bulldogs on Thursday night at Schafer Stadium.
It wasn't until the Indians arrived in Ottumwa, however, did they realize an actual track meet was taking place at Schafer Stadium. The Evans Middle School track and field invitational forced Osky to get back on the bus and head to the Walsh Soccer Complex.
The detour was well worth it. Audrey Chaney scored a pair of the goals for the Indians, helping to secure Oskaloosa's first win of the girls soccer season with a 3-0 shutout victory over the Bulldogs at Eric Wertheim Memorial Field.
"We're small, but we're a team. The girls don't get down on each other. They're always encouraging each other. They're always supporting each other," Oskaloosa head girls soccer coach Jodi Steinlage said. "They continue to dig, even though we only have one substitute. I've got nine girls that played all 80 minutes and the fact that they're still making those runs late in the 80th minute shows these girls are out here to compete."
While Steinlage watched her team break through on Thursday, Shayla Robinson watched her team disappointingly regress. The first-year head coach of the Bulldogs was hoping her young team would be able to secure the program's first three-match winning streak since Robinson was a senior member of the Bulldogs in 2012.
"We just did not come ready to play. They didn't even look like they were ready to play during warm-ups," Robinson said. "You could definitely tell when we first got here and looking how the girls prepared they thought this was definitely going to be a win. They thought they had this in the bag. That's not how it goes. You have to work for it. It's not just going to be handed to you, and I think that's what our girls expected."
Ottumwa appeared poised to strike first with two straight possessions deep in Oskaloosa territory, keeping the ball from cross midfield during the first three minutes. Once the Indians did cross midfield, however, it didn't take long to find the back of the net.
Chaney took Oskaloosa's first real run at the goal all the way down the field, firing the first shot of the entire match in the 10th minute. The initial shot would elude Ottumwa goal keeper Kelly Garcia-Salas, giving the Indians a sudden 1-0 lead.
"I think scoring that first goal is what really settled us down," Steinlage said. "That's the first time we led all season."
Oskaloosa would lead the rest of the way. Lindy Slocum dribbled the ball deep down the field without losing possession and again was able to fire a shot past Garcia-Salas in the 16th minutes as Oskaloosa, without much resistance, built a 2-0 lead.
"I told the girls to look at our last match, when we were down a goal at halftime to Centerville (on Monday) and continued to push each other," Robinson said. "For some reason, after the first few minutes, it all went downhill for us. They just lost their confidence. The main focus is communication and dominating what we usually do. Our passes were not there, there was no talking. The girls just looked confused and not ready to play."
While the match may have been in Ottumwa, the change in location from Schafer Stadium to Wertheim Field may have played in helping the visitors feel more comfortable. Balls that moved down the turf field on Monday against Centerville with much more pace suddenly became balls that moved very slowly on the natural grass at the Walsh Complex, giving Oskaloosa (1-2) a much more familiar feel having played and practiced on grass on their home field.
"With the turf, the ball is rolling and you have to make sure the passes are a lot crisper so it doesn't get away from you," Steinlage said. "With the grass, especially this grass being longer, you have to make sure you make strong, hard passes to get the ball there. Once we got that second goal, you could see our confidence really pick up."
By the end of the night, Oskaloosa had outshot Ottumwa 21-4, pitching the ball forward without sending the ball out of bounds chasing the Bulldog defense all the way back to the end line. Offensively, the Bulldogs struggled to finish off runs to the net as the Indians were able to catch up several times, limiting the quality shot opportunities for a team that had scored nine goals in consecutive wins over Chariton and Centerville.
"From the get-go, we tried to make the girls were aware of how much slower the ball was going to move. When that's the case, you have to be the first one to the ball," Robinson said. "We just were not there. We've been practicing on the turf (at Schafer Stadium) and it seemed to work really well for us. We've been doing everything right at Schafer, but it didn't travel with us over to Walsh."
Both teams have tough matches coming up with Oskaloosa continuing through a Little Hawkeye Conference gauntlet that includes tough upcoming matches with Knoxville, Norwalk and Pella over the next four matches.
"There's not a lot of time to rest and recover for us," Steinlage said. "This definitely gives us some much-needed confidence. The Little Hawkeye Conference is one of the toughest soccer conferences on the girls side."
Ottumwa also faces tough opposition from the Central Iowa Metropolitan League next week. The Bulldogs host Ankeny Centennial at Schafer Stadium on Tuesday night before heading to Urbandale on Friday, Apr. 23.
"We've seen what we can do this season, even when we're down a goal. We can fight back and win," Robinson said. "I think this was an off-night for us. We just weren't ready to play."
Oskaloosa 3, Ottumwa 0
Oskaloosa 2 1 — 3
Ottumwa 0 0 — 0
Oskaloosa — Audrey Cheney goal, 9:46
Oskaloosa — Lindy Slocum goal, 15:24
Oskaloosa — Cheney goal, 52:49
Oskaloosa: Total Shots — 21 (Cheney 7, Emily Simon 5, Lauren Tarbell 4, Kylie Davis 3, Slocum 2). Total Saves — 2 (Kyrsten DeWees 2). Total Fouls — 6.
Ottumwa: Total Shots — 4 (Leticia Sosa 2, Maria Francisco, Jadyn Hallgren). Total Saves — 5 (Kelly Garcia-Salas 5). Total Fouls — 5.