By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
It wasn’t exactly the piece of hardware the Stillwater High School girls soccer team was looking for, but for the second straight season, the Lady Pioneers finished second in the Stillwater Cup — dropping a 4-0 match to state powerhouse Owasso in the championship Saturday at the Cowgirl Soccer Complex.
“We had a lot of fun,” Stillwater coach John Fields said. “We consider just getting to the championship game of our own tournament a real positive for us. The fact that we lost is of course disappointing. We just weren’t first to the ball very much. We let them dominate us physically and they controlled the middle of the field.”
Owasso opened the game by scoring with 34:15 left in the first half and never looked back. The Pioneers (5-2) had their chances, but unlike earlier in the day against Enid, they just couldn’t convert on those opportunities.
“That was the most frustrating part of the game,” Stillwater senior Sam Krysiak said. “Offensively, we’re pretty hot and cold. It all depends if we link up together. Unfortunately, this game we didn’t link up like we did early, so we’ll work on that.”
Krysiak almost knotted the game at one with 28 minutes to go, but Owasso’s goalkeeper denied her. Three minutes later Owasso tacked on another goal when a turnover on a throw-in paved the way for another Lady Rams’ score, giving Owasso a 2-0 lead after one half.
Stillwater looked like it might get on the board on Kendall Gordon’s free kick, but the ball bounced off the crossbar with 37:30 left in the first half. Lauren Parker had a shot at the rebound, but her shot sailed wide.
“We just keep hitting that crossbar and those posts,” Fields said. “For some reason, we just can’t find the in between in an 8-by-24 frame. We’ll get it, eventually. That’s why we play, that’s why we practice.”
With 22:18 remaining, Owasso added to its lead when Casey Abernethy scored on a breakaway. The Lady Rams then tacked on a final goal during another one-on-one situation with 15:24 left to clinch the championship.
As much as Stillwater’s offense struggled against Owasso in the championship, that certainly wasn’t the case earlier in the day when they faced Enid.
Krysiak scored two goals and chipped in two assists as the Lady Pioneers scored four times in the first half in a surprising 5-1 rout of the Pacers.
“If I knew 100 percent how to get them to do that consistently, I’d be coaching at Notre Dame,” Fields said. “We get these really hot streaks where we score a lot of goals and seem to be unstoppable. Then, out of the blue, we’ll suddenly go cold. Right now, the important thing is we talked about all those things we need to do to make it to the title game and they’ve been doing those things.”
Krysiak got the scoring started in the first half, using a sliding shot that trickled past Enid goalkeeper Eva Trostle with 28:11 left in the first half. Fourteen minutes later, Krysiak added her second goal, putting Stillwater up 2-0.
“When we go out and score within the first 10 minutes, we have a tendency to really open it up,” Fields said. “If we haven’t scored within the first 10 or 15 minutes, we seem to be a little bit slower. When we score in the first 10 minutes or so that really breaks the ice and gives them some confidence.”
With just less than 10 minutes left in the half, Krysiak decided to share the wealth, finding a streaking Hannah Grant, who outraced the Enid defender to the ball and deposited it in the net. Olivia Staubus capped off the first, giving Stillwater a 4-0 lead at halftime.
Five minutes into the second half, Kelsey Henneha scored Stillwater’s fifth goal and final goal.
Enid made a little bit of a run as Shelley Mueller found Lexie Havens with a nice cross. Havens couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net, whiffing on a golden opportunity before falling to her knees in despair with 24:41 left in the game.
The Pacers eventually did get on the board as Mueller found Brianna Bartow with 13 seconds left in the game, but by then it was too little, too late as the Pacers’ dreams of a championship run were dashed.
“(This game) surprised me a little bit,” Fields said. “Of course one of the factors for Coach (Craig) Liddell is that they have to travel back and forth between (Stillwater) and Enid. I know that when we see them in April, that’s going to be a much improved team and I expect it to be a closer game. I was just a little bit surprised that we got up so fast and so soon. But they’re still a quality club and I’m sure when we see them in April it’s going to be a different story.”
Stillwater boys take third
There may be a new champion in the boys’ bracket of the Stillwater Cup, but that didn’t keep the Stillwater High School boys from bringing home some hardware of its own, following a 2-1 win over Verdigris Saturday at Pioneer Stadium.
Sam Smith head provided plenty of excitement for the Stillwater fans, as he knocked the game-winner in with 10:12 left in regulation to break a 1-1 tie before making a goalline stand in the final minute to preserve the victory.
“I’m going to jump up and go for every ball that I can get my head on,” Smith said. “On those corners, I can jump really high and get those, so they’re looking for my head on all those crosses and corners.”
“(Smith) was involved on two of the three goals tonight — an own goal, then our goal — and then he made a save at the end,” Stillwater coach Seth Condley said. “That’s just Sam. He’s been playing well for us all year as a senior captain and that’s why we have him back there.”
Matheus Barbosa got Stillwater on the board first, scoring on a penalty kick with 18:37 left in the first half to give the Pioneers (3-4) a 1-0 lead at the half.
“It was good just to score first,” Condley said. “Any team, if you score first, it gives you a little extra lift of energy. To get that first goal and for Matheus to take it after getting fouled, it was pretty cool for him to take it.”
Verdigris answered less than two minutes into the second half as Smith head proved to be in the way this time, knocking the ball into Stillwater’s net.
The Pioneers thought they took the lead, but Gasem Gasem was given a yellow card in the box, nullifying Brian Kriner goal at the 11:54 mark.
Eventually it didn’t matter as Sam Smith was able to get his head on Barbosa’s corner kick, burying it in the back of the net to give Stillwater a lead it never relinquished.
“That’s just kind of our guys,” Condley said. “We know that things aren’t going to your way all the time. ... We faced adversity a lot this year and to come out with third place was a good sign.”
Verdigris nearly tied the game with just over a minute to play on a throw-in, but Smith’s head proved to be in the right spot at the right time once again as he knocked a ball away on the goalline to preserve the win.
“We needed something good to happen for us,” Condley said. “Getting third place and finding a way to win, that’s a sign of a little growth. It’s a good sign. We needed something good to happen for us and this was definitely good.”
With the Stillwater Cup over the Pioneers will now turn their attention back to district play as they face Jenks Tuesday at Pioneer Stadium.
“That win was a huge increase of morale on the team,” Smith said. “Everyone is excited and ready to play Jenks on Tuesday. We’re just going to try to keep doing the same things that we’re doing — possessing in the middle and try and distribute outside.”
Prior to taking on Verdigris in the third-place game Saturday night, the Stillwater High School boys started the day facing a talented and experienced Heritage, Ark., team ready to make some noise in this year’s tournament.
But the thing that has been the Achille’s heel all season for the Pioneers bit Stillwater once again as they gave up a goal with about two minutes left in the first half, paving the way for a 2-0 victory.
“We played well the whole game,” Coach Seth Condley said. “I’m not disappointed in the guys’ effort one bit. They played great. That’s a good team and we’re a good team. We gave up one goal with two minutes right before halftime that never should have happened and it changed the whole game. I know it’s only one goal, but before that they hadn’t had very many chances.”
The Pioneers nearly answered less than a minute later as Marlon McDonald found some daylight, but couldn’t get a clean shot off and his shot sailed wide as Heritage took a 1-0 lead at halftime.
Stillwater continued to play well in the second half thanks to a couple of big saves by Jackson Murphy. But after making a huge stop to keep it a one-goal game, Heritage added an insurance goal on a cross that caught Murphy out of position.
“Overall, I was pleased with this game,” Condley said. “I know that these guys are never going to quit. They’re going to work hard. They know it’s just because I’m trying to talk about their play. I’m very proud. We played with them and had some chances to score. We just didn’t get it done.”