The Norfolk High girls soccer team has had difficulty sustaining ball possession so far this season.
On Monday evening, in a 3-0 loss to Lincoln Pius X, the problem continued.
“We did not start the game as aggressive as we needed to. Pius controls the ball really well,” Panther coach Kyle Mather said. “That means that you’re going to have to be more aggressive and more physical to slow them down, and we were not that.”
With the wind at their backs, the Thunderbolts spent most of the first half of play on Norfolk’s end of the field, accumulating 13 shot attempts, with the Panthers’ keeper, Hailey Kleinschmit, turning away six of those directly at the goal.
However, when Kleinschmit caught, then bobbled a shot from approximately 20 yards out by Pius senior Sydney Schnase, the ball bounced into the goal and provided the Thunderbolts a 1-0 lead with 7:39 remaining.
“That goal started at midfield when we let a girl dribble between two or three of us, and we didn’t do anything about it,” Mather said. “We didn’t do what we were supposed to do in that situation; there should not have been a shot on goal.”
To make matters worse, Pius added another goal just 25 seconds later when the Panthers’ defenders left Michaela Bunz unaccounted for in the middle area of the field, and the sophomore scored from 25 yards out to pad the Thunderbolts’ advantage to 2-0 with 6:54 left until the break.
“That’s a mental thing; when you give up a goal, the next two minutes after that are always critical,” Mather said. “So you need to keep your head in the game and bounce back; either team might lose focus and the other can score.”
But offense was lacking for Norfolk all game long as the Panthers failed to create a shot in the first half and managed just two in the second, despite having the wind behind them.
Meanwhile, Pius tacked on another goal — this time on a header by Tenley Heimes on the rebound of teammate Abby Vacek’s shot — that got by Norfolk’s backup keeper, Tasha Eisenhauer, with 4:17 left to play in the game to establish the 3-0 final score.
“Hailey’s knee was bothering her at halftime, so she wasn’t able to do goal-kicks. We thought we needed to get Tasha in there,” Mather said. “Hailey and Tasha have both been solid for us; we’re very comfortable with either one of them in goal.”
Mather said he did feel that “Macy Fundus and Pareena Ponniah did a nice job in the midfield of trying to create some passes to teammates instead of just kicking the ball.”
“I feel like Julie Durio does a good job of pressuring the defense and making things difficult,” Mather said. “But we need to improve making passes to each other, and part of that is our work off the ball hasn’t been very good.”
As Norfolk falls to 3-7 on the season with the loss to 5-3 Pius, Mather reiterated the need for the Panthers to generate some offense.
“It doesn’t matter if you play great defense for 80 minutes if you can’t find a way to punch one in,” he said. “It’s tough to keep good teams out of the goal for 80 minutes; we need to find a way to put the ball in the net. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Lincoln Pius X 3, Norfolk 0
Goals: (LPX) Sydney Schnase, Michaela Bunz, Tenley Heimes.