Over the past couple of years, had the West Holmes Lady Knights fallen behind Lexington by two goals in the first half of a soccer game, they would have wilted and fallen to pieces.
On Thursday, Aug. 30 at West Holmes High School, the Lady Knights were faced with that very scenario. However, this time around, West Holmes fought back, and although the Lady Lex eventually pulled out a 3-2 win, moral victories are a plus against a team that has dominated you in the past.
“That was two totally different halves of soccer,” West Holmes head coach Schuyler Jones said. “I thought we came out in the second half and caught Lexington on their heels, and we needed to take advantage of that, and we did. Had we done that in the first half, it may have been a different outcome, but overall we can’t complain with the effort we got tonight. We were tied with a team that has beaten us up the past number of years with five minutes to play.”
Jones said in years past she has seen West Holmes enter games with Lex with a defeated attitude. She talked a great deal about having a positive mental approach coming into this game and said her girls came in strong mentally, despite falling behind by two in the first half.
“West Holmes is not used to competing with Lexington, and I don’t think Lexington is used to having us compete with them, so hopefully this is a building block for us and other teams will realize that we are coming in with a defeated attitude,” Jones said.
After Danielle Gottschling knocked home a left-footer in the middle of the box and Abbey Elfrid smacked one in from the right corner of the box late in the first half to give Lexington a 2-0 lead, many people in the stands on the West Holmes side were thinking the same thing: “Here we go again.”
But there was no panic and no negativity on the sideline at halftime for the Lady Knights. Jones made sure of that.
“In the past we would get down two goals to them, and suddenly we’d hang our heads and be down 4-0 or 6-0,” Jones said. “I was very careful what I said at halftime. I didn’t want to say something to defeat the girls, and we kept a positive mindset, and they went out in the second half and performed. We shot ourselves in the foot, but we climbed back up. We just didn’t climb quite high enough.”
Just 90 seconds into the second half, West Holmes got the spark it needed when Kerri Wagner found the feet of Taylor Dye in front of the Lexington keeper, and she drilled it into the back of the net to put the excitement back into the game.
“They did a nice job of just being gritty against us, and I thought we got a little bit comfortable after controlling the game in the first half,” Lexington head coach Buck Morton said. “We got some nice finishes in the first half, and then we had a lot of opportunities in the second half but just didn’t finish.”
Later in the half the Lady Knights found the equalizer in what Jones called a perfectly executed goal. The ball moved swiftly through four players, and it would be Wagner again setting the table, this time for Liberty Arnold, who hammered one home to knot things up at 2-2.
A game that normally would have gotten out of hand by now was suddenly tied, but as all good teams do, Lexington found a way to capitalize on a West Holmes mistake. A foul just outside the top of the box allowed Lex to take a direct kick, and the talented Elfrid made them pay by crushing one in with five minutes left in the game to give the Lady Lex the winning goal.
“We got a little tentative and a little sluggish with five minutes to play, and it bit us,” Jones said. “That is where we need to pull ourselves together mentally and physically and play tough, sound soccer.”
The high-scoring Wagner ended firing four shots on goal, all of which were stopped, while Marian Miller also hit two on goal and Dye’s only shot on goal found its mark. Lexington took a lot more shots on goal than did West Holmes, firing off 19 shots on goal, led by Elfrid’s five and four apiece from Chloe Porter and Gabby Stover.
With that huge number of shots being fired at her, West Holmes keeper Morgan Stephenson had her work cut out for her, and Jones was thrilled with the effort her keeper gave.
“Morgan played a heck of a game,” Jones said. “She read so many shots so well, and we’ve been working on her with being aware of her line, and she did everything we could have asked of her. It was a great performance by our keeper.”
Lexington is a team with aspirations of an Ohio Cardinal Conference crown, so this win was a big step in the right direction for them. Even missing star forward and two-time All-Conference junior Lacee Bethea, Lady Lex still managed to get off a ton of shots.
“Madison is such a great team, but they lost some people from last year, and Ashland is having a great year, but we feel we will be right in the hunt,” Morton said. “I give West Holmes credit. They played hard, and when they had their opportunities, they finished, but if we want to compete for a league title, we have to finish better than we did tonight.”
While the win went to Lexington, Morton said it felt more like West Holmes had won and his team had lost, but in the end he was happy to be heading home with a victory.
Despite the loss, Jones was excited with her team’s effort, coming on the heels of a pair of shut-out victories.
“It’s tough to lose a game with five minutes to play, but we can come away from this game with a lot of positives,” Jones said. “We battled and didn’t get defeated when we could have easily done that. We got some nice balance in our attack, and it is important that teams know we have multiple weapons and some diverse shooters. There are just a lot of positive things we can pick out from this game, and it was a game that I thought we grew a lot.”