Jackson defender Caitlin Woodruff plays the ball out of defense to her teammates in midfield.
Jackson The Jackson High School boys and girls soccer teams bounced back from defeats last week at Mary Persons High School, with each scoring four goals in home wins against Stockbridge High School.
Lady Devils 4, Lady Tigers 0
Senior winger Nicole Rivera and freshman striker Carolyn Harkness both notched a goal in each half of Jackson’s 4-0 home opening win. Jackson dominated possession and the pace of play for large periods of the game.
The opening 20 minutes proved to be Stockbridge’s most threatening portion of the game, as the Lady Devils had trouble clearing the ball out of their own zone, which left Jackson goalkeeper Kathryn Berry in a couple goal-mouth scrambles.
Once Jackson got on the scoreboard, the game settled down in its favor, as freshman center midfielder Shannon Holland kept the ball well and kept her composure in the middle of the park.
Jackson grabbed its first goal with about 10 minutes left in the first half. Harkness made it happen after latching onto an errant pass between two Stockbridge defenders, when she tucked home a goal in a one-on-one position with the Stockbridge keeper.
Jackson got its second just before halftime through Nicole Rivera getting on the end of a pass that sliced right through Stockbridge’s central defensive pairing, and clinically finished just inside the left post.
It was apparent at halftime that Jackson’s players had a better fitness level than Stockbridge’s, as the Lady Devils were constantly winning back loose balls and controlling the pace and fluidity of the game.
Rivera banged in her second goal with 24 minutes left in the game. Sophomore winger Madison Williams sent in a teasing low cross from the right flank. It looked like nothing would come from the play as the ball missed Harkness’ outstretched foot by inches, but Rivera charged in from her position on the left and finished at the back post to give Jackson a 3-0 lead.
As Jackson possessed the ball in the second half, Stockbridge’s midfielders drifted deeper and deeper to help their defense. However, the two Lady Tiger strikers stayed very high up the field, hoping to spring a counter attack. The result was a disjointed Stockbridge side, which had no link between the midfield and the strike force. With the midfielders and attackers playing so far apart, Jackson’s deep-lying midfielders had plenty of time and space on the ball to pass and dribble without worry.
Harkness put the final dagger in Stockbridge when she broke away from the defense and beat the keeper to the near post.
The girls’ Head Coach Kevin Shivers said he was pleased with the win, but that his team also needs to improve in several areas.
“I’m glad we were able to come out here and get our first win, but I actually thought we were better on Tuesday,” said Shivers, referencing his team’s 7-0 loss to Mary Persons. “The field conditions may have had a something to do with it as it’s a pretty soggy field, but I thought we weren’t as aggressive as Stockbridge. We also need to improve our first touch and our speed of play. That said, we had some players like Carolyn [Harkness] and Shannon [Holland] who had good games for us.”
Red Devils 4, Tigers 3
The Jackson boys played a nail-biter of a game that came down to the wire after building a 4-1 first-half lead thanks largely to the play of junior winger Jose Villalobos.
Three players were still serving suspensions for Head Coach Beau Garrett’s side, leaving a lack of depth on his squad entering the game. The situation was made worse when Garrett acknowledged afterward that he had three players go down with injury or sickness during the game.
“We were struggling there in the second half because Hunter [Statham] came off with a little pull in his quad,” Garrett said. “... Another guy chipped his tooth and came off the field and said he thought he swallowed it. So it was kind of crazy for a while there.”
The night didn’t start well for Jackson, as they allowed a breakaway goal within the first few minutes of the game.
It didn’t take long before junior striker Joe Brown scored the equalizer with a shot across the face of the goalkeeper from the left side of the box.
Jackson’s next goal came from a booming strike from Villalobos. A low cross came in from the right flank that was intended for Brown in front of goal, but the ball curved behind him and found Villalobos outside the top left corner of the box. Villalobos fired the ball in with his left foot on a first-time strike that never rose more than a foot off the ground, and beat the keeper to the far post. The goal gave Jackson a 2-1 lead halfway through the first half.
Villalobos’ second goal was even more remarkable. With 6:46 left in the first half, Jackson was awarded a free kick about 35 yards from goal. Villalobos curled the ball around the wall and put the ball in the top right corner of the goal, to extend Jackson’s lead to 3-1.
“Jose is a master dead ball striker,” said Garrett after the game. “When he has a free kick, he can score from just about anywhere.”
Villalobos scored what would end up being the winning goal a minute later when a Jackson player was taken down inside the box, and the referee awarded the Red Devils a penalty. Villalobos calmly finished to the right side of the net, giving Jackson a 4-1 lead that they took to halftime.
The second half was a completely different story than the first, with Stockbridge controlling almost all of the play. The team forced Jackson deep in its own half, and Jackson’s senior goalkeeper Chris Eidson was constantly pouncing on loose balls and doing his best to control his area in front of goal. After getting two goals back, Stockbridge appeared to have scored an equalizing goal of its own until the officials nullified the goal after deciding the goal scorer for Stockbridge was offside.
Garrett said he was relieved when the final whistle blew, and that it was a very important result for his team.
“That was a big, big win for us,” Garrett said. “It’s always nice to bounce back from a loss, and to get our first region win here is nice for us.”
Both teams play their next games at home on March 2 against Drew High School. The girls are scheduled to kick off at 5:30 p.m., with the boys following at 7:30 p.m.