The Logan-Rogersville girls soccer squad blasted through their district tournament to rise to the state sectional match in St. Clair on Saturday. It was their first return to sectionals since 2016, and unfortunately for the Lady Wildcats, it went much the same way as that ill-fated loss to Bolivar.
On Wednesday, it was all smiles for the team, though, as they bested another Wildcat squad, Cassville, in a 4-1 district championship game in Monett.
As if to prove they could field threats beyond junior goal-machine Sophia Nixon, the Rogersville squad utilized a multi-pronged attack to rack up their side of the scoreboard early.
“I think Cassville’s coach did a great job of preparing for Nixon,” said Rogersville head coach Brett Wubbena. “They hustled everything, and that always helps, but we said it was important to get an early goal, and we were able to get one of those.”
Of course, that first goal came from Nixon, and it came within the first two minutes of game time.
Even so, the rest of the Rogersville offense kept Cassville honest while they blanketed Nixon, making a number of early pushes that may have resulted in goals were it not for the relentless work of the Cassville goalie.
“Our midfield kind of dropped into the back, and sometimes we left it empty and they just swallowed up everything in midfield,” Wubbena assessed. “But we were able to hold the ball up top and get some shots off — that keeper just made some really great saves.”
Wubbena also tipped his hat to his own keeper, junior Jessy Bond, who at one point in the first half saved the Rogersville girls from a breakaway forward who ended up in a one-on-one opportunity.
“Jessy was just fantastic,” said Wubbena.
The real offensive momentum for Rogersville came from free kicks, and junior Lexie Vernon's ability to capitalize on them. With around 10 minutes remaining in the first half, Vernon notched the team’s second goal with an astounding corner shot across a quarter of the field on one free kick. She then set up junior Shelby Ince on another free kick in the last two minutes of the half, giving the team a comfortable three-point cushion.
To Cassville's credit, they fought to the end. The Cassville Cats pressed hard on offense, and the majority of the second half was spent in Rogersville territory. Competent defensive play kept them from capitalizing until a penalty kick with about 15 minutes remaining in the game.
Vernon answered not long after with another goal from a free kick. This one arced over the Cassville keeper’s outstretched hands, and sealed the district title.
After the game, Wubbena reflected on the rocky scope of the season, including its rocky start which included a large portion of a team that ran too deep into the basketball season to get any practice in.
“We were still trying to figure out who belongs where, and we played some of our toughest games then,” he noted. “I think all of those challenges actually made us better, though. We came out the other end as a team more ready to face what was coming.”
Indeed, since the Branson Invitational tournament, in which the Cats came home with a championship trophy, the team has been flexing its strength, putting up 12 wins in 13 games leading right up through the district championship victory.
None of it was enough to come out the other end of sectionals, however.
The game against St. Clair was almost a complete reversal of the district title, with the Bulldogs scoring their first goal in the opening minutes of regulation, and piling on early to rise to a 4-0 halftime lead.
Vernon and Nixon gave the girls a glimmer of hope in the early part of the second half, as the former sunk one in the net on an assist from the latter, but they couldn't build on the momentum against a near-impenetrable Bulldog defense, and there the score would remain until the end.
The 1-4 defeat finished the Rogersville season with a 17-7-1 record.