Thanks to the weather, Mason began its 2014 girls soccer campaign with one of the biggest games of the season, a crucial 2-0 win at CAAC Gold preseason co-favorite Jackson Lumen Christi on Wednesday.
Claire Barkholz scored in the first half and Kirsten Hunt in the second for the Bulldogs (1-0 overall, 1-0 CAAC Gold), who finally opened the year after having three games canceled due to the Michigan “springtime.”
Lumen Christi (1-3, 0-1) came into the contest having played three games already, which was a concern for Mason coach Christie Hursey.
“With it being the first game, we were a little worried how we would play,” Hursey said. “They’re a good team, and they gave us a run, but I thought our girls played hard and played well together.”
That concern evaporated quickly, as the Bulldogs dominated possession in the first half.
Signs of rust still showed, as Mason took a while to hit its stride with its short passing game, but was able to take the ball back from the Titans whenever they lost it.
“We’ve been (practicing) outside for a while now, and I think when you have the ability to be on the field and see open spaces, you can improve on possession,” Hursey said. “Our team did a really nice job of translating some of our outdoor practice to this game.”
That near-constant possession was finally rewarded with 9:20 left in the first half, when a cross from the right wing by Barkholz slipped through the hands of Lumen goalkeeper Paige Pryson and banked in off the far post to give Mason a 1-0 lead.
Lumen played much more inspired in the second half, creating several chances immediately after the break, but could not get the vital last touch. The possession was much more even, closer to 60-40 in favor of the Bulldogs, as opposed to 90-10 in the first half.
Titans coach Damon Havlicek said that the difference between the two halves was simply down to effort.
“We needed to compete,” Havlicek said. “We didn’t compete like we did against Country Day (in a 2-0 loss) on Saturday. We had a totally different approach today, and I don’t know why. And it’s actually warmer out here than it was (then).”
Mason still created the bulk of the scoring chances, and squandered two or three very good ones before finally getting their insurance goal on another somewhat fortunate bounce. After a collision on the left-wing side of the Lumen box, the ball fell to Hunt, who took one touch and then made a nice finish from a sharp angle to the far post to make the score 2-0 with 12:04 left.
“This is a big win,” Hursey added.”We’ve been challenging for the league championship with Lumen for the last decade, and we’re hoping to continue this into (the rest of) league play.”