UPDATED – The senior forward scored a goal in each period, the ultimate game-winner coming in the 29th minute following a throw-in deep in St Dominic’s end. The ball was sent to the far post after the throw and Thomas’ initial shot was parried off the crossbar but her second opportunity was not to be denied.
Thursday was my first opportunity to see Rockwood Summit this season, but I know them as a team that has regularly visited Springfield for the Kickapoo Shootout and had success. After entering the Metro rankings at #6 earlier this month, the squad was facing nationally-ranked St Dominic’s while coming off a loss to O’Fallon the previous evening in the tournament.
The squad came out in a 3-5-2 playing with junior Kacey Bright at sweeper and a pair of marking backs. While Stephanie Hulett and Maxine Peat began in the marking positions, in the 7th minute Allison Brown was on as a substitute and it became clear that this Falcon’s squad was committed to out-working St Dominic’s with a regular rotation of players planned.
Out-working a team can be a component of a strategy but a team like St Dominic’s is capable of taking advantage of the smallest opening, through the run of play or with a counter-attack. That opening, if it was present on Thursday, was lost in this game however. The Crusader’s, with their perfect 16-0 record had gone 5-0 in games with a single goal margin, so they were experienced dealing with pressure.
In addition to their work ethic, Summit looked well prepared for the Crusader’s. In a conversation with Head Coach Chris Kappler post-game, I asked about the line up. The team chose the 3-5-2 to match up directly with St Dominic’s I was told, a decision that is made on a game-to-game basis. The more direct result was that each player had an identified mark and they did a remarkable job of staying with their players throughout the game and pressuring every ball. That more than anything seemed to have the biggest impact as the game wore on. The Crusader’s are used to being able to find time and space with the quality of their game but Summit denied them with constant pressure.
The goals were both scored as a direct result of the pressure. The first came following a throw-in earned deep in the St Dominic end as the back was forced to push a ball out. The net result was a ball to the far post that UMSL-signee Thomas put on target and then buried the rebound. Her second goal was the result of a poor goal kick which she collected and then buried her shot just under the crossbar in the 48th minute.
To the Falcon’s credit, neither goal led to a change in tactics. They continued with the same high pressure approach through the remainder of the game. The Crusaders attempted to come back, moving to a 3 forward line up soon after the second goal, but they were unable to penetrate or even test the Rockwood keeper on this evening.
The Final and 3rd place games of the St Dominic/Howell North tournament will be played on Saturday. Districts are two weeks later. Plenty of time to refine things for the playoffs!
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