Jefferson senior Rachel Miller and Bluffton’s Karli Leugers fight for control in a physical match Thursday at Hamel Field in Fort Jennings. The teams battled to a 2-all NWC girls soccer draw.
FORT JENNINGS — Bluffton built an early 2-goal advantage in its girls soccer matchup Thursday evening at Keith Hamel Memorial Field in Fort Jennings.
The host Jefferson Lady Wildcats spent the rest of the match playing catchup and got the equalizer with 12:20 remaining in the contest to notch a 2-2 Northwest Conference draw.
The Lady Pirates (4-9-1, 2-2-1 NWC) drew first blood on a goal at 35:59 when Megan Dulle got control of the orb on a pass from Jill Steinmetz just a step away from the top of the 18-yard box and fired a 19-yarder from just outside the left post past senior keeper Paige Miller (6 saves versus 10 shots on-goal); perhaps bothered by the sun shining right in her face, she couldn’t prevent the shot from finding the net for a 1-0 edge.
It became 2-0 at 30:03. Steinmetz got a lead pass from the left by Lugibihl for a run right down the middle; Miller came out some to try and cut off the angle but the 14-yarder found the right side of the net.
“We got off to a slow start but we did a lot of good things we’ve been working on. They had a couple of breaks go their way early and we had to fight from behind,” Jefferson coach Josiah Stober noted. “I liked how we came back and controlled the ball. We’ve been working on passing, ball possession, shooting, those things. The results are starting to show more and more.”
Bluffton coach Joel Steinmetz was happy about his team’s fast start.
“We focused on that; we’ve struggled getting out of the gate, so that was good to see. We got a key player back from injury, Jill, and she had a goal and assist but you could tell she wasn’t 100 percent,” he added. “They really came out and controlled the second half; we couldn’t get the ball out of our defensive zone. We put in another defender to try and help and it did some but we struggled getting shots.”
Both teams had chances the rest of the half but the Pirates couldn’t break through.
The Lady Wildcats (4-8-1, 2-2-1 NWC) began to take control of the match with their ball possession but they couldn’t get the ball past Bluffton junior keeper Abbey Heslep (9 saves versus 16 shots).
The best chance had been at 33:50 when senior Rachel Miller had a 15-yarder deflected away by a defender for a corner kick.
They finally struck back at 22:01. Off a corner kick from the right side, sophomore Bailey Miller got control of the orb on the left post and fired from in close; the ball was deflected by Bluffton junior keeper, with sophomore Kylee Haehn on the doorstep of the right post for the putback.
The Wildcats continued to attack the goal, as did Bluffton, but the keepers were up to the task as the halftime hit with a 2-1 Bluffton edge.
The Red and White all-but-dominated the second half, especially in the early going, but couldn’t get the tying tally until late.
They had a great opportunity at 36:30 off a corner kick. The ball volleyed back and forth dangerously in front of the Pirates’ net and Haehn tried a header from the right post from eight yards out; Bluffton defender Anna Crisp headed it away and the orb was eventually cleared out.
The hosts finally got that equalizer at the 12:20 mark. On a pass inside from sophomore Elisabeth Miller, Haehn got control just outside the right post at the top of the 18 and went high and hard inside the near post for a 2-2 tie.
The Lady ’Cats had a chance to get the match-winner at 4:00 when Haehn found freshman Logan Hamilton on a pass inside from the left side but her 14-yarder was denied by a diving save by Heslep.
“We are definitely getting better each practice and each match,” Stober added. “We focus on the little things each time out. We are not only focused on the fundamentals of the game but also some strategy; the girls are buying into it more and more because they see the results and are understanding the game better.”
Jefferson hosts Lima Senior at 11 a.m. Saturday. Bluffton hosts Crestview under the lights Monday.