For the Hiland Lady Hawks’ soccer team, it is all about taking the next step in the progress of a team trying to build a winning tradition. Winning didn’t come in their most recent game, but a very good effort against one of the best teams on the regular-season slate gave hope for the future, both immediate and down the road.
Head coach Jeremy Kauffman felt as though his Lady Hawks played much better than the 4-1 loss to St. Vincent-St. Mary would indicate.
For 60 minutes Hiland played kick-for-kick with St. V. A goal 20 minutes into the game put Hiland in the hole 1-0, but five minutes later Mia Gertz crushed a beautiful goal as the equalizer.
Unfortunately St. V answered almost immediately to go up 2-1 and took that lead into halftime. Nearly 20 minutes later St. V and Hiland were still standing on that score, but the Irish got two late goals to pull away for the victory.
“I looked at some of their scores coming into the game, and I was really concerned how well we would compete with them,” Kauffman said. “They are 10-2, and they have beaten some really good teams, so I was a little bit nervous coming in.”
Kauffman said the initial goal his team allowed was simply a breakdown and a horrible goal to give up. He then noted that the goal Gertz scored was her best of the season and an example of just how good she can be.
“We got down, but we fought hard and were able to come right back,” Kauffman said. “Unfortunately about a minute after we got the equalizer, we gave up another goal that was kind of a poor one.”
St. V’s two second-half goals were both of the variety that were simply unstoppable shots that found the back of the net just under the cross bar, and Kauffman said there isn’t much you can do about that kind of score.
“They came out in the second half and played much harder and came after us in the second half, and we weren’t quite ready for that,” Kauffman said. “But I told the girls that in the overall scheme of things we played a pretty good soccer game.”
Kauffman said he believes his team is moving in the right direction, noting that the team has taken steps in maturing. He said the team at the beginning of the season would have fallen apart completely against a talented group like the Irish.
“It was 2-1 60 minutes into the game against a team of that caliber,” Kauffman said. “At that point we are feeling like we have a chance to tie this thing up. I don’t think we do that at the beginning of the year, and that makes me feel like we are progressing in the right direction at the right time of the year.”
Kaufman said it was about tightening up some small things and gaining some understanding that they need to have a better sense of urgency in being in the right place at the right time, anticipating where they need to be to stop a play or to receive a pass that puts them in scoring position.
While Kauffman said the final score didn’t feel as good as it would have been at 2-1, he said the hope is that this helps the team gain confidence as the final three regular-season games arrive, building confidence as they near tournament play.
He said if his team does the right things and works hard on anticipating moves, they will be competitive and have a chance to win all three of their final games.
“It’s all about playing the right way,” Kauffman said. “That is the most important thing going into the tournament. I told the girls that we have to start building that confidence that every time we step on the field we need to have the attitude and the confidence that we are going to compete and win. Even though the score tonight isn’t what I wanted, we can walk away from this game feeling very good about competing for most of the game with a really good soccer team.”