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A few moments after their season opener against Walton-Verona, the Grant County High School girls’ soccer team was brimming with confidence and their coach was soaking wet.
The Lady Braves gave coach Melinda White an ice water bath after their 5-2 victory over the Lady Cats on Aug. 17.
“I think this game shows the girls that they’re going to win the district,” White said. “They thought Walton-Verona was one of their biggest challenges in the district and beating them 5-2, I think that’s why I’m soaking wet right now.”
The Lady Braves started the first half aggressive, with freshman Alexis Willen drawing a yellow card for taking out a Lady Cat while making a play on the ball.
“Alexis is an amazing sweeper. When she clears the ball, she tends to clear the girl because they can’t change their momentum,” White said. “I wasn’t surprised by how quickly the referee called it on her, but then after that, he stopped calling it because he realized she’s that good. We’re going to work through that.”
Both teams were physical, but neither could take advantage of their opportunities, ending the first half tied at zero.
“It was a physical game and before the half, my girls were thrown off by it,” White said.” I sat them down and we talked about how they were literally thrown off their game. But then we went back out and the game completely changed.”
Before the game turned, senior Ellie Ebner and a Walton-Verona player each received yellow cards for tussling while battling for a ball.
“With Ellie, I was a little disappointed because I felt that the other girl deserved a red card,” White said. “My girls are aggressive, but we’ve got to talk about keeping their head up and not losing their composure.”
The Lady Braves were able to respond quickly as senior Renee Vincent answered with a second-chance goal, scoring when Walton-Verona’s goalie was unable to control the ball after stopping a shot. Vincent followed with another quick goal to put the Lady Braves ahead 2-0.
“We’re starting to play as a team, better than last year. We’re communicating, making passes and runs,” Vincent said. “We’re going to win districts, no matter what. Our coach has turned us around. We’ve got a lot of strong players.”
“Getting the first goal was the turning point. They saw that if they played their game and put pressure on their keeper then they could win the game,” White said.
Walton-Verona was able to answer, drawing a penalty kick on a takedown inside the box and scored to make it 2-1.
Grant County continued to be aggressive, though, as junior Jackie Kinman scored back-to-back goals to put the game out of reach.
“They were pushing us off the ball and we got angry and pushed back,” Kinman said. “We wanted to win. We’re a confident team and we’re going to do our best.”
Walton-Verona added another goal before freshman Mackenzie Tucker scored the final goal to make the score 5-2.
“It’s going to be tough for other teams because my girls know that practice will hurt the next day if they don’t win the ball,” White said. “They’re not going to get pushed off the ball. Other teams better be prepared for that. This team isn’t just hungry, they’re starving.”