The Vivette’s are bringing back memories of their Championship teams in 2010 and 2011 with the quality they showed Friday in their 3-2 win over Webster Groves. A dominant first half that saw the Statesmen go without a shot on goal was enhanced by a pair of goals, both coming from the run of play.
Viz showed patience and aggressiveness in equal part as they worked to first deny Webster, focused as all teams have been since St Joe’s dominating District win last year, by concentrating on limiting Maddy Pokorny’s opportunities. That was made easier with her initial role as a forward where Viz’s suffocating defense required Pokorny to seek out long balls sent forward with little purpose. Later, as she was moved back into the midfield, by attention from Liz Hopkins and Abby O’Keefe who set the tempo of the Vivette’s efforts on the day.
Visitation has multiple attacking options, the difference between a Top 5 team and everyone else. With senior Abby Grimes paired with wunderkind Kayleigh Stahlschmidt, a freshman, up top there is a yin-yang element that keeps defenses off balance. The first goal came from Stahlschmidt in the 15th when she put her shot past Charlotte Kennedy with a low hard blast to the near post. The second goal was scored by Sarah Price, who buried a cross from Grimes in the 25th.
Price, with Hannah Brobst and Amalia Tettambel, are wide midfielders who work extremely hard on both sides of the ball. Price has stood out for me in the two games I’ve seen in her attacking skills. In recent years there has been plenty of attention at the highest levels on wide players who play on their weak side, in this case the left, but then create havoc with their runs into the middle that offer opportunities to score with their stronger foot (Bale & Robben for example). Watch Sarah as she makes those runs this season. It disrupts defenses and she’s got the shot that makes her dangerous anywhere inside 25 yards.
The Statesmen seem to be learning what it means to play with a target on your back. After their win over Nerinx in District semifinals last year and the respect McVey showed for Pokorny in St Joe’s District win, Webster is no longer the underdog nor a surprise to anyone. They did not handle the pressure well at all in the first half. In the second, a system change that brought Pokorny into central midfield, the appropriate place for her in my opinion, along with a commitment to keep the ball on the ground showed they can move the ball as a unit when they try.
An attack that began with four touches in the back corner led to freshman Jacqueline Baetz breaking down the right touchline. Game on as the ball eventually found Pokorny in the box where her shot found the net four minutes into the half, after deflecting off a Viz defender. Webster moved the ball well with this new configuration, featuring Jr Cami Unger partnering with Pokorny and Peyton Beck moving up to get numbers in the midfield.
That narrow emphasis was exploited later by the Vivette’s however. It was the senior Grimes who made the difference as she moved wide to provide an outlet and used her skills to win important 1v1 games in the offensive end. When her initial shot was saved in the 60th Webster’s attempt at a clearance fell to O’Keefe 25 yards out and her shot just eluded Kennedy as it flew in under the crossbar.
O’Keefe’s goal extended the Viz advantage to 3-1 and decided the game as Webster was unable to muster another strong attacking opportunity until the final minute when a defensive mistake, the last defender stepped on the ball and fell, allowing sophomore Alex Harper to break in alone on on kat Zaber. Harper finished well.