By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
All season, Stillwater High School boys soccer coach Seth Condley knew his team had the talent to be one of the best teams in the district.
They finally showed it with a 3-0 win over Bixby Friday at Pioneer Stadium, snapping a two-game losing streak.
“We just played well,” Condley said. “This was about as close to a must win as we’ve had and they came through with glowing colors. I don’t know what else to say, but I’m pretty proud.
“This is by far the biggest win of the season, for sure. It’s not that it’s because we beat a good team, but it’s more because it was a district game. We needed a big win. That 3-0 win gets the goal differential going in the right way. But just to get that losing streak off our backs. Bixby’s a good team. They beat Union in overtime, so this is a huge win for us. ”
Matheus Barbosa’s goal with 7:28 left in the first half provided the spark Stillwater (4-6, 1-3 in district) needed after so many near misses early in the match.
“I was a little surprised that their keeper let it slip through his hands, but any time you put a ball on frame it’s a chance for a goal,” Barbosa said. “That’s just what I tried to do. I got kind of lucky that the keeper bobbled the ball a little bit, but at least I gave myself a chance.”
It’s rare to see a match completely dominated by one team, but that’s exactly what the Pioneers did. From the opening kick through the final whistle Bixby’s chances were few and far between.
And even when Bixby did threaten it seemed like there were three or four Pioneers surrounding the ball at a given time.
“We’ve been hounding on it since Union and Jenks to get pressure on the ball and make them play it backwards,” Condley said. “We didn’t let them get time to turn because we knew that their forwards were dangerous. They’re very technically sound, so we just tried to keep it away from them as much as we could.”
Stillwater had its chances early, missing an open net with 30:34 left in the first half. Tre Diaz also had a shot but Bixby goalkeeper Adam Laizure was there to deny him.
Three minutes later, Barbosa struck from about 18 yards out, igniting the Pioneer bench and giving Stillwater a 1-0 lead at the break.
“We got that first goal, which was big for our psyche,” Condley said. “We had given up some early goals against Jenks and Union and we struggled to get back into it. It just kind of changed things. I think the keeper saw it at the last minute. We asked our guys to put the ball on frame because you never know what’s going to happen. That’s what happens. You put the ball on frame and good things happen.”
After missing a golden opportunity early, Diaz made up for the miss with 36:45 left in the game, ripping a shot into the back of the net to give the Pioneers a 2-0 lead. Barbosa nearly added to that lead but his free kick bounced off the crossbar.
“I almost celebrated that one (too early),” Barbosa said. “The keeper had his hands up and it went right over his hands. It was just a little unlucky there.”
Stillwater eventually did get that goal all-important third goal as Garrison Glass put the final nail in Bixby’s coffin, scoring with 2:23 left to seal the victory.
“This win feels amazing,” Barbosa said. “This group is used to winning and losing like we were kind of had everybody down. I think this was the break we needed to get us back up there. … It was pretty nice, especially since they were favored and some people thought they might win by double digits. To just come out and say, ‘Hey, we can beat you guys,’ that’s was just great teamwork.”
Bixby girls 2, Stillwater 0
The Stillwater High School girls soccer team did everything right to upset Bixby. They were physical, aggressive and defended well enough to earn the win.
But when it came down to it, Bixby just had too much speed for the Lady Pioneers’ defense as a pair of goals by Tatum Wagner proved to be the difference as Stillwater suffered a 2-0 district loss to the Lady Spartans Friday at Pioneer Stadium.
“They’re very fast, very skilled and very physical,” Stillwater coach John Fields said. “They just whined about getting fouled a little more than we did. The refereeing was very fair on the physicality tonight. It’s just disappointing when I hear fans criticizing the girls for the way they played. All the girls gave 100 percent. Soccer is a semi-contact sport and I thought we did a good job of matching their physicality.”
In a game that featured three yellow cards – all in the second half – Stillwater (5-5, 0-4 in district) showed it wasn’t going to be intimidated by Bixby as Alyssa Bullock saved nine of 11 shots.
“Alyssa was outstanding, as she has been for the last three or four games,” Fields said. “Even though they’ve been losses, Alyssa has kept us in those games and gave us a chance.
The Lady Spartans nearly scored in the opening two minutes, but a ball off the post bounced right into Bullock’s hands.
“That was a little scary,” Bullock said. “It definitely got my head in the game after that. … I was able to stay focused and pay attention, so I knew when to come out and when to prepare for shots.”
Bullock then came up with another big save in a one-on-one situation against Wagner, knocking the ball over the net to keep the game scoreless. But eventually Wagner got the best of Bullock, depositing the ball into the back of the net on a breakaway to give Bixby a 1-0 lead at halftime.
“That was pretty important because when we get scored on early, (the other players) get discouraged and they don’t play as well sometimes,” Bullock said. “I just wanted to be able to make sure that they would keep their confidence up and keep playing hard.”
And play hard the Lady Pioneers did.
Stillwater’s defense and physical nature continued to dominate the game for much of the second half. Even when Micki Power found Wagner for Bixby’s second goal with 27:39 left in the game, the Lady Pioneers didn’t give up.
But that’s when things got a little chippy. In the span of 16 minutes, three yellow cards were handed out as both teams showed signs of frustration.
“They played really, really physically so we were just trying to match them,” Bullock said. “We were just trying to match them. It got a little bit out of hand some times, but our team played really solidly and stayed aggressive against a team that’s none to be aggressive.”
The loss may have moved Stillwater to 0-4 in the district, but Fields said it doesn’t necessarily eliminate the Lady Pioneers from the playoffs. It does, however, put the pressure on Stillwater to win out in districts.
“We want the girls to think that all of them are must wins, but this one would have been a nice win because it would have meant that we could have been a little bit more relaxed going into the last three games,” Fields said. “Neither Enid nor Ponca will be an easy game, but mathematically and practically we’re still in it. That fourth spot is still open and it’ll be between us, Ponca City and Enid – two teams we play in the last three games.”