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CHS Girls Soccer

Road wins vault Bruins into tie for first place

Columbia High matched its inaugural girls soccer season win total with Trico Division victories last week over La Center and Stevenson.

Moreover, the two road wins put the Bruins (2-0, 3-1) in an unfamiliar position: tied for first place atop the division standings.

Columbia opened the week with a 2-1 decision over La Center on Sept. 14, and followed up with a 5-2 verdict against Stevenson last Thursday.

"I think the difference for us is that we're playing as a team, using our knowledge and our skills to play the game the right way," Bruins Coach Amy Kasenga said.

In its two victories, Columbia showed a lot of patience in moving the ball around the field and passing it to players when they came open, she noted.

"Because we've been able to maintain possession under pressure, our attacks have been much stronger," she added.

Against Stevenson, junior forward Kelley McNallan scored a pair of goals in the first five minutes. It seemed the Bruins would quickly bury the Bulldogs.

But Kasenga said she felt it wasn't going to be that easy.

"I never underestimate Stevenson when we're playing them on their field and where the weather can be such a factor," she said. "And I knew our defense hadn't been tested yet, that it wasn't going to be a done deal."

Sure enough, she was right.

Stevenson rallied to knot the score at 2 apiece with goals in the sixth and 23rd minutes--both the result of CHS defensive breakdowns.

Columbia regained the lead in the 30th minute, however, when sophomore Chani Weiler chipped in a shot from the right of the goal area that appeared to graze the underside of the crossbar before finding net.

The Bruins stayed on the attack after the halftime break and increased their lead to 5-2 on goals by freshmen Naomi Halpern and Mackenzie VanLaar in the 49th and 57th minute, respectively.

Halpern's first career goal came when her low shot from the left of the goal area slipped under the gloves of Stevenson's goalkeeper.

VanLaar got her first goal when she banged in a 25-yard shot from the top of the penalty arc.

"It was a more physical, more competitive match than the first time we played them," Kasenga said. "But throughout it all we were able to maintain our style of play."

Stevenson had its chances, however, both to take the lead in the first half and to close the gap in the second.

But the Bulldogs were denied either because their shots were a hair wide or because CHS sophomore goalkeeper Kelsey Kidd made a critical save.

"Kelsey kept us in it," Kasenga said. "She had some very critical saves. Without those it would've been a close match."

Kidd had seven of her 13 saves in the first half, when Stevenson gathered momentum and kept up the pressure by controlling the midfield area.

Columbia dominated in the opening minutes and quickly opened a two-goal lead.

McNallan headed in Weiler's misfire off the crossbar in fourth minute and made it 2-0 in the fifth with a lofted shot from 17 yards out on the left wing that skipped off the fingertips of Stevenson's goalie.

Overall, Stevenson outshot Columbia, 21-17, though several came in the late going when Kasenga was substituting liberally to give players playing time.

One of the top players off the CHS bench was sophomore Casey McGray, who "did a good job of taking away the outlet down the side" and preventing Stevenson from getting the ball to its playmakers, Kasenga said.

Columbia High 2, at La Center 1 --

The Bruins overcame a 1-0 halftime deficit with goals by Chani Weiler and Kelley McNallan.

Weiler's goal was unassisted while Naomi Halpern made the pass that set up McNallan's scoring shot.

All told, CHS put 31 shots on goal--17 in the second half--to La Center's 17.


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