CENTRALIA — The Red Devils dominated possession in the first 45 minutes of their match against Centralia College on Friday afternoon but came away with nothing to show as the Trailblazers got hot in the second half to secure a 3-0 victory in Northwest Athletic Conference action.
“We talked at halftime about making an adjustment and we just didn’t so they got an earful there at the end about how when we talk about something, we need to play like we train,” Lower Columbia coach Joe Chicks said. “So if we talk about something and then don’t do it all we can do is point the finger at ourselves.”
After putting the press on Centralia for almost the entirety of the first half LCC seemed frustrated by their lack of payoff. Much of that frustration could be pinned on Centralia goalie Marisol Vargas who kept her defense in line with a commanding vocal approach to controlling the keeper box. Vargas also posted ten eight saves on the day as the Red Devils put up a dozen fruitless shots.
Lower Columbia’s best chance in the first half came in the 19th minute when they worked the ball deep into Trailblazer territory. On a corner kick Julia Cash was able to put a head on the ball and redirect it toward the net but Vargas smothered the ball and a booming punt had the Blazers offense off and running in the other direction.
After a scoreless first half, both teams went to the intermission ready to talk about changes. It turns out that Centralia was the team prepared to actually implement them.
“At halftime we said basically whoever scores first is going to have a huge advantage on the mental side of it,” Chicks said. “We obviously wanted to be the team to score first. We said one is going to turn to two is going to turn to three, and that’s really what happened. We were just on the wrong side of it.”
During the break Centralia changed up their strategy and opted to start lobbing balls over the top in order to flummox a solid LCC defensive wall. And the change worked almost immediately.
Seven minutes into the second half the Blazers put a shot up on goal that ricocheted off top bar. That seemed like good luck for LCC until Chloe Narloski wound up with the rebound right in front of an empty net and promptly broke the seal on the scoring.
Nine minutes later Haylee Ward was the recipient of a pass from Imani Tustison that landed on her foot five yards in front of the goal which Ward redirected past a diving Red Devil goalie.
That momentum carried over for one more goal just three minutes later. This time, though, Tustison changed up the attack and instead of working the ball inside she lofted a shot over a charging goalkeeper for a score from 27-yards out.
“In the first half we had chances to score but we just didn’t take out chances,” Centralia coach Clarence Gunderson said. “We moved some players around and we were looking for that final third pass, or that finishing pass, and that’s what the girls were able to execute in the second half.”
That second half second wind for the Blazers flew in the face of conventional wisdom as they boast just 12 players on their roster and several players could be seen struggling to find their air throughout the first half.
“As you can tell, we don’t really have subs. I think the girls just dug deep down and grinded it out to finish,” Gunderson said. “One adjustment we made in the locker room is we’ve got to be the team keeping the ball and moving the ball so we’re not the team chasing the ball.”
In particular, Gunderson praised the play and gameplan execution of Emma Browning, Lex Thompson and Tina Moore.
As for the Red Devils, coach Chicks was pleased with this team’s ability to build up their attack but disappointed in their transition from the frontline to the backline. And despite the loss, and the 13 minutes in particular where the Blazers couldn’t miss, he was encouraged by what he saw from his goalies who stopped seven of ten shots on the day.
Brandi Stoker donned the keeper jersey in the first half for LCC and Kyla Pires put on the gloves for the second half.
“The goalies did really well, particularly Brandi in the first half. She was playing on the front foot and coming out and stopped some balls that could have been dangerous but she got there before it happened,” Chicks said. “Kyla is really good at making saves, too. I mean, those shots they had, she got big and they were just getting them off the bar and bouncing back to the middle. All you can do on that is tip your cap and move on to the next one.”
Lower Columbia (0-2-1) is scheduled to host Bellevue on Tuesday. Centralia is set to have a week off before playing at Highline next Friday.