That term seems reserved for the game of soccer, and for the Hiland Lady Hawks, the word pretty much summed up their 1-0 sectional tournament loss to Harrison Central Thursday, Oct. 20 at Hiland High School.
In a rain-soaked evening that caused some serious footing issues, a shot that appeared to be well wife and high of the goal took a different path, and turned into a Huskies goal that would be the lone goal scored all night.
Hiland coach Jeremy Kauffman said that at the end of the day, all teams have to lose at some point, but he and his Lady Hawks would have preferred it not be on this particular day.
“It’s not a good feeling,” Kauffman said following Hiland’s stunning loss. ‘We felt very good about ourselves coming into the game, but they played really well. I watched them play earlier this year, and they played a lot harder tonight than they did then, and that is a credit to their coaching staff.”
While Harrison Central first-ever tournament win was cause for great jubilation on the Huskies sideline, it created a dour atmosphere in the Hiland locker room following the game, and more than a few Lady Hawks exited with tears in their eyes.
“I’m proud of the kids,” Kauffman said. “We faced a lot of adversity this year. From key kids graduating, to some girls not coming out to a bunch of concussions, the girls had a lot to deal with. But these girls worked hard all year and got a lot better. We have six great seniors leaving who have given a lot to this program.”
The game was marred by tough conditions due to a steady rain that made footing uneasy. Both teams had chances, but neither was able to convert. At the 20-minute mark in the first half, the Huskies had a great opportunity when Hiland was whistled for a foul In the box, creating a penalty kick chance for Harrison Central. However, they punched that chance over the top of the crossbar, and the score remained even at nil.
Late in the first half, Hiland had a golden opportunity slip away when Alexis Raber sent a ball into the six, where Hiland had five chances to punch one through, but came up empty until the Huskies could finally clear it.
As the game wore on, it became apparent that one score might win it, and Harrison Central finally fond that one shot it needed when Sydney Starr stroked a shot, and had it glance off a Hiland defender on its way to the net.
Starr beat a pair of Hiland defenders down the left side, then after the ball banged around a bit, she saw an opening. She cranked up, but her shot looked destined to sail wide right and high. However, she caught a break when the ball glanced off a Hiland defender, and redirected toward the upper left corner of the net. In the muddy quagmire in goal, Hiland keeper Lexi miller had absolutely no prayer of stopping her momentum and crossing back to her right. All she could do was watch with her teammates as the ball sailed into the back of the net for the lone goal of the game.
When Starr struck her shot, she didn’t think it had much of a prayer of going in. It turns out she couldn’t have been more wrong.
“Not at all,” Starr said when asked if she thought her shot had a chance. “I really didn’t think I hit it all that well. Fortunately it went in.”
After that goal, the Lady Hawks went into attack mode, moving their defenders up near midfield as they fought for the equalizer that would allow their chances of staying alive possible. Despite a number of scoring chances, Hiland simply couldn’t find the footing or the opening to score, and time ticked out on their season.
“It is sometimes frustrating to give up a goal, but the reality is, at some point we have to be able to score goals, and that was once gain our Achilles heel tonight,” Kauffman said. “Madeline (Kauffman) had a couple of shots that were very close to going in. We had our chances in the box, where if it lands on the right persons foot at the right time, you poke it in, but we just didn’t convert.”
While both teams had to contend with the rain and the slick conditions, the weather may have hindered Hiland’s game plan more than Harrison Central’s. The Huskies tend to bang shots down field and chase, while Hiland prefers to pas the ball and control time of possession. The rain-slicked grass made every pass an adventure, and maintaining possession became more and more difficult as the evening wore on and the field turned to a quagmire.
“In the end, you have to go out and win on the field, and hat’s off to them, they played a very good game, and they came out really ready to play hard,” Kauffman said. “But with the way we wanted top play possession soccer, I told the kids before the game that this weather was going to benefit them because it was going to make for tougher conditions for us to do what we wanted to accomplish in maintaining possession. I think the rain and slick field is going to make the playing field more equal.”
In dry conditions, Kauffman said he felt like Hiland had a big advantage in maintaining possession and thus, maintaining the flow of the game in their favor.
The rain simply made that difficult, and it created more Hiland turnovers, which allowed Harrison Central to try to hammer the ball downfield and chase.
“Passes we normally make we didn’t make because of the conditions, and simple traps weren’t getting made because the ball was squirting away and it was tough to control. But at the same time, I felt we handled the rain and slick field about as well as we could. I take no credit away from them, they played a great game, but I do think the rain helped them.”