The wind at Lorena’s back in the first half didn’t suddenly tilt the playing surface at Pirate Field.
But it might as well have.
Haley Flores and Kaitlynne Jones both scored twice, and Lorena netted six goals in the first half of a 7-0 win over La Vega on Tuesday night.
The ball rarely left the La Vega end of the field in the first half, as the Lady Leopards (19-2, 7-0 District 17-4A) were quicker to loose balls and had an idea of what to do when they got there – thanks to teammates telling them what was available.
“Our level of communication is something we talk about all the time at practice,” Lorena coach Ann Burnside said. “It’s something we’ve really been focused on this year is communicating with each other so you know where your options are, and I thought we really did that tonight. I was really pleased with that.”
The Lady Pirates (5-7-1, 2-4) felt the pressure and were forced to do anything they could to keep the ball out of their own goal.
That often meant sending the ball out of bounds beyond its own goal line, which set up the Lady Leopards for corner kicks. Four times, Lorena capitalized.
Katie Burnside scored the first goal of the game after sending the ball into the goalkeeper’s box from the corner. A La Vega defender headed it out, but not far enough. Katie Burnside tracked it down at the top corner of the box and launched a shot from there that found the net with 4:19 gone by in the game.
“We’ve scored more off of corner kicks this year than we have in the past, and that’s been a big boost to our record,” Ann Burnside said. “The kids are doing a really good job of buying into the corner kick schemes we’re coming up with, and they’re doing a great job of executing those runs.”
Flores’ first goal came on a shot from 10 yards out that was juggled and dropped by La Vega goalkeeper Tara Lothlen, and Kenli Petty made it 3-0 on another corner that was knocked around in front of the Lady Pirate goal before she slipped it over the goal line.
Jones showed off her speed for her first goal, outrunning a La Vega defender for a bouncing ball that was sent downfield by a teammate. She finally tracked it down in the left side of the box for an easy goal with 22:13 to go before halftime.
Lorena, ranked No. 1 in this week’s Texas Girls Coaches Association 4A poll, was still just heating up, and Flores found herself with a gift after another mishandle by a La Vega goalkeeper, this time Unique Cargill on a corner kick, and blasted it in, then Jones closed the first-half scoring with a creative goal off a corner in which she her back was facing the goal but she kicked shoulder high and sent the ball backward and in.
“We made those pressure situations where we made them give up a ball or make a pass they don’t really want to make, but they have to make,” Ann Burnside said. “It makes it a lot better for us, and I thought they came out very strong and pressuring. I was really pleased with how we played tonight.”
Lorena goalkeeper Macy Kunze was mostly a spectator in the first half, but La Vega made things much more difficult for backup Kristie McGee in the second. But McGee was up to the task, whether that meant going to the turf to scoop up the ball just in front of an oncoming attacker or standing her ground with shots coming at her, she was up to the task and finished off the shutout.
Paizlee Whalen put in Lorena’s final goal, a hooking shot from 25 yards out that seemed destined to elude Cargill no matter how hard she tried to track it down. That was 9:30 into the second half, and the Lady Leopards had other opportunities but didn’t add any more.
La Vega struggled to find offense without its usual catalyst in Jennifer Santoy, its leader in assists who was walking around in a boot.
“I think when you’ve got a senior that’s been a key cog, and all of a sudden you walk out and see she can’t play and she’s in a boot, there’s a little bit of hesitation,” La Vega coach Bob Sheehy said. “It’s normal, but we have to regroup and get ready for the next game. Our goal is still playoffs, and nothing has happened to change that. We just have to figure it out, and they played a lot better second half.”