It’s often about quality of shots rather than quantity in soccer, and the Calhoun Lady Jackets proved that on Thursday night. Add to that a defense and goalkeeper that rose to the challenge every time they were tested, and you have a successful formula.
The Lady Jackets hosted Rome for a non-region test on Thursday and came away with a big win thanks to a key early goal and several stellar defensive plays in the second half to keep the Lady Wolves off the scoreboard and come away with a 1-0 victory.
Calhoun (2-2-2) took control of possession early on in the game and had multiple chances but couldn’t quite push one in to the back of the net. They broke through in the 19th minute when a long pass ahead split the Rome defense and Emily Sorrow took it the rest of the way and sent it past the Lady Wolves’ goalkeeper to make it 1-0. That proved to be the game-winner.
Calhoun coach Taylor Sumrall, who is in his first season at the helm, said the early goal was a big boost for his team.
“We’ve had our struggles scoring early in the season so to get that goal in the first half was a big confidence builder,” said Sumrall. “Luckily we had the speed up front, and Emily was able to put it away for us. I think if we can get a few long balls through the defense in each game, we should be able to score on at least one or two of them.”
The Lady Jackets had a couple more scoring opportunities in the final 20 minutes of the first half, but Jenna Santori had a shot saved by the Rome goalkeeper in the 21st minute and then narrowly missed on a shot wide left in the 32nd minute.
Calhoun goalkeeper Mia Smith made two saves of her own in the first half to preserve the 1-0 lead at the half.
Rome turned up the pressure in the second half and had the majority of possession on Calhoun’s side of midfield, but the Lady Jackets’ veteran back line turned the visitors away each time they needed to. Smith added saves in the 45th minute and 59th minute to bring her total to four for the game, and Rome also missed wide with a free kick from just outside the box in the 69th minute.
Sumrall said the sophomore Smith and his defense led by veteran starters Halle Rhodes and Michelly Huitanda were in position to make game-saving plays all night.
“Our defense is led by Halle and Michelly, and both of them have started for three years,” said Sumrall. “They really work well together and communicate. Laurel Putnam and Grace Ebersold have also been solid filling in and are where they need to be when we need them.
“Mia got some good experience last season as a freshman. She was tested many times tonight and made some big plays. She is long and rangy. She’s still got to work on some things, but she is playing well in our first few games.”
Calhoun had a few offensive chances themselves in the second half as Santori had two shots saved by Rome’s goalkeeper, Sorrow had another shot saved and Hannah Dimeler narrowly missed the goal wide right on a shot.
“We preach in practice to pass the ball to the corners when we have breaks,” said Sumrall. “We’ve got to keep working on trying to finish those chances and give us a little cushion on the scoreboard. We just need to learn how to relax, take the shot and aim for the corners of the net.”
The win was the Lady Jackets’ second in their last three games after starting the season 0-2-1. They earned a draw at Woodland in their last game last Tuesday. Sumrall said his team is coming along and improving every week, but they still have a lot of room to grow.
“Right now our strength is our defense,” said Sumrall. “We know we can’t lose if we don’t get scored on.
“We’re coming along and getting better each day. We need to work on playing with intensity from the start of each game. We need to attack the other team rather than trying to defend them attacking us. We’re getting there. Hopefully, we’ll be playing our best by the end of the season as we improve some each day.”
The Lady Jackets are on the road at Heritage for another non-region contest on Tuesday at 5 p.m.