ELMA — Nothing gives a home team more confidence against a rival than two quick goals in the first 10 minutes of the match.
On the feet of senior forward Sydney Smythe, Elma was staked to a 2-0 lead 10 minutes into its Evergreen 1A girls soccer match against Montesano at Davis Field. The rains came, the play got physical and the lead never changed in a 4-1 victory for the Eagles.
Smythe, celebrating her 18th birthday, had those two first-half goals, while senior teammates Brooke Goldsmith locked in the advantage with two second-half markers for the league-leading Eagles (6-1).
Sophomore forward Taylor Birdsall gave Montesano a measure back with a second-half goal.
“It is tough when your team is down a goal a minute or two into the match, that can change the psychology of a match really quick,” Elma head coach Chris Schumacher said. “It wasn’t as good as I would have liked it to be, because of the sloppy field conditions. Both teams possessed the ball well. We still have to work on our game. … We had some great athletic plays, some good crosses and took advantage of the opportunities we were presented tonight.”
“They were a little bit nervous in the first 10 minutes, (but) they settled in after that,” Montesano head coach Jeff Lenherr said. “We were a little bit unlucky with the breaks tonight. You can see them trying to make the passes they wanted, but the conditions were slick and it was tough. I thought (the girls) played well; we just didn’t take advantage of the shots we had.”
Less than two minutes into the match, Montesano had one run at Elma’s goal, but the Eagles made the most of their first chance at the other end. Smythe appeared to be crossing the ball from the far left to right of the goal, but the ball had other ideas. It swung in and tucked itself inside the far-right post for the opening marker.
Elma pressed its advantage with shots on goal, forcing Montesano goalkeeper Kasie Kloempken to make saves. In the eighth minute, Smythe this time made herself available for a cross that provided the cushion needed to stake control of the match.
From the right side, junior forward Natalie Grant made a dangerous run down the sideline. In the middle of the field, Smythe split the defense and was onside to receive a perfectly placed low cross into the penalty area. All it took from Smythe was a touch and the ball beat Kloempken for the 2-0 lead.
The pace of play settled down after the goals, mostly because of the monsoon rains that fell onto Davis Field’s grass. Both teams had chances on goal, but final touches were not as crisp and passes skipped on the water-logged field out of the reach of teammates.
Montesano came out in the second half with more urgency and capitalized on a corner kick in the 49th minute. On the second corner kick of the sequence, Alyx Miller sent a dangerous cross into the heart of the player mob in front of the goal. A Montesano player lost in the crowd got a flick header onto the ball, directing it toward Birdsall, who one-timed it into the net for a 2-1 score.
Goldsmith and the Eagles never allowed the Bulldogs to inch closer than one goal. In the 56th minute, Elma threatened and scored when Annie Cristelli’s pass deflected off two Monte defense into the path of Goldsmith. The senior dribbled in and beat Kloempken to the right for a 3-1 lead.
The senior goal-scorer punctuated the festivities, which included plenty of physical and intense play by both sides between the penalty areas, in the 84th minute. Goldsmith found the ball at her feet when Smythe’s cross from the left hit teammate Peyton Elliot and deflected to her. She one-timed the ball into the net to finish the scoring.
Kloempken finished with six saves on the night, while Elma’s Alyssa Sutherby needed just three saves.
“All in all, the girls did very well tonight,” Schumacher said. “From the breaks we got from Montesano tonight, we capitalized on them. Patience, the opportunity arose and we took it.”
“I thought Elma did a good job on (defending) our counterattacks; I thought that was the difference tonight,” Lenherr added. “The girls needed a little bit of confidence that they can play. They’re still young. We have a style of play we want to play and they hung in there.”
Fitting a rivalry junior varsity game, Montesano and Elma tied, 2-2.
Tonight, Montesano will go to Rottle Field to host Hoquiam, while Elma travels to Ocosta.