MOUNT CARMEL -- In just their second year as a program the Mount Carmel girls soccer team has showed an incredible amount of grit despite a tremendous amount of learning on the run.
They faced more adversity in their latest game, against Salem, which they matched as they had in their previous game against Metro East. This time, it ended in a 1-1 tie on Tuesday night at a swampy Wabash Valley College soccer field.
Both teams battled fatigue, a theme that would interchange as the game went on. Salem struck (0-6-2) first in the 13th minute of the game, taking a 1-0 lead.
In the winding minutes of the first half the Lady Aces had some good ideas and opportunities to score, but failed to capitalize on their chances and entered the break trailing 1-0.
Just a few minutes into the second frame the Lady Aces had another great opportunity. Sophomore Maya Smith had a tremendous opportunity after a nice find, but the Lady Wildcats' goalie deflected the ball out of bounds and forced a corner instead.
Smith had another straight line attack at Salem's goalie in the 52nd minute, but the one-on-one take was either deflected by the goalie or she made contact with Smith, who tumbled to the ground and missed a great opportunity.
After her two missed conversions earlier, Smith seemed determined to get on the scoreboard. She and the Lady Aces had several chip shot opportunities at the goal in midst of heavy traffic around the goal. She finally found the back of the net after a second chance opportunity on a find by senior Taylor Noirfalise to get Mount Carmel on the board, knotting the two teams even at 1-1.
Mount Carmel had a couple more opportunities in the next few minutes but were unsuccessful in scoring.
From about the 65th minute to about the 75 minute mark it appeared as if Mount Carmel was just gassed. The Lady Wildcats were dominating possession and were relentlessly pushing the ball down the field. Sophomore goalie Allison Thread did a nice job of negating any Salem scoring opportunities, including one that went just right of her extended arms and sailed past the goal.
At the 75th minute mark Mount Carmel head coach Ed Berberich sent four subs in to rejuvenate the Lady Aces heading down the stretch -- and it worked. Once a team that looked absolutely fatigued for a 10 minute stretch, were now controlling the possession and tempo.
"This one went kind of up and down in that regard," Berberich said. "It kind of depended on who had the energy at the time. They didn't have the subs so they looked tired at times too. We have a lot of players, but a lot of inexperienced players. . . . Since I've been here we haven't had a full team yet, we've always been missing two to four starters every game, or at least girls I envision as starters. We have some injuries there we're dealing with, so hopefully at some point we'll get to full strength."
Smith had an opportunity, but missed, followed by a miss by sophomore Rylie Webb with one minute remaining.
With both teams locked at 1-1, the buzzer rang and the match ended in a tie.
As a team Mount Carmel took 16 shots, 12 of which were on the frame, created 10 scoring chances and took three corner kicks. Salem took 12 shots and had two corners. Thread had 11 saves for the Lady Aces.
A scary moment happened in the 43rd minute when junior defender Lauren Schoon was struck in the face by an errant ball following a deflection. Schoon exited for precautionary reasons but appeared to be ok. Berberich hopes she'll be able to go, otherwise someone will be called upon to play in her position, as they've been forced to do with some other girls following injuries. He's liked the production a couple of girls, Isabelle Deisher and Josie Betsch, have brought despite their inexperience.
"I know Lauren took a shot to the head," Berberich spoke of Schoon. "She's one of our starting defenders, hopefully she'll be good to go Wednesday, but we might be down another defender, we'll see. It's kind of forced other girls to step up, Isabelle Deisher and Josie Betsch, they haven't played before but they've been forced to go out and play with us missing some of the other people we've got. They're doing a great job filling in so that's going to help them and us going forward when we do get everybody."
Berberich would've liked for one of his players to have been able to nail a last-second goal, but he's content with the progression of this team, which he says continues to progress.
"We could have easily won this game like we could have easily won Saturday," Berberich said. "The record may not look great, but I told them that's not how I'm going to judge them yet. We're just not to that point yet as a program. As long as we're playing hard, improving on our play, I'll be happy. Would've been nice to get that second goal but like I said, I'm happy with where we're at considering just kind of what we're dealing with with the schedule."
He added that he believes they can improve on their passing and their set discipline, as he said they're being stretched out a little too much vertically by allowing the middle third to be pretty open. It's just positioning and skill issues they're encountering that come with player development, problems you'd much prefer to have over effort related issues.
"We're seeing some good things, the players are seeing, coming up with good ideas, but a lot of the time the passes are too heavy and stuff like that because we're not putting the right weight on those passes," Berberich said. "Instead of making it a pass, it's more of a kick up ahead. Keep working on that I think, but also our shape, offensively and defensively. Like I said, the shape is what I'm talking about when we're way back here. We've got plenty of players in the defensive third, attacking third, not many in the middle third. Keeping shape on both sides is going to be big, we need to keep working on that."
That aforementioned schedule pits the Lady Aces (0-3-1) in eight games in a 15-day stretch, a grueling stretch that will test their conditioning and discipline even further as they seek their first win.
"We'll see how we respond," Berberich said. "I added that game Saturday because we want more games, but it made this stretch harder. When I saw us gasping for wind 15 minutes into the game, 20 minutes in, I was wishing we hadn't added that game. But again, I don't want to turn down games, especially when they offer to play here. We took it, we'll deal with it, but that's kind of the big thing really. I like what I'm seeing out of our play when we're energetic and aggressive. The game Saturday was like that, first half we weren't quite as aggressive, second half we came out and were much more aggressive, we started to get tired but were still trying to play aggressively. Tonight that went up and down, we were pressuring the ball good, protecting the passes pretty good, other times we weren't. Again, I think it's the fatigue thing mostly. I think partly it's developing the attitude as well."
That stretch will continue into Wednesday when they travel to face Richland County at 4:30 p.m. They won't return home until April 30 against Harrisburg, a game slated for 4:30 p.m.
MC -- 0 1 -- 1
S -- 1 0 -- 1
Lady Aces goals: Smith (13').