When the final buzzer sounded Thursday, there were plenty of positives for the Crowder soccer team to take away from its season opening showdown against the Ozark Christian College Ambassadors at Roughrider Soccer Field. Most importantly, of course, was the reading on the scoreboard — a 2-1 victory for the Roughriders.
While teams tend to struggle a bit in their first season, the exact opposite was true for the Roughriders. Their play in the first half was about as good as it could have been, even without the tally marks on the scoreboard. Crowder out-shot OCC 5-1 while amassing seven corner kicks in the contest.
They scored both of their goals in the first half and took a 2-0 lead into halftime, though they easily could have had more. Within the first eight minutes of the contest the Roughriders had a pair of missed shots that banged off the post, and another off the crossbar. Their attack, however, never relented as they kept the Ambassadors pinned deep in their own territory the majority of the contest.
Despite those misses, the Roughriders broke through when freshman Will Krolman, a Joplin native, blasted a shot from long distance past the keeper and into the net to make it 1-0 with 30:51 remaining in the first half. The Roughriders made it 2-0 just 59 seconds later when sophomore Facinet Camara (Alexandria, Va.) headed a corner kick from freshman Daniel Collins (Bath, England) past the keeper.
“I thought we knocked it around really well,” Crowder coach Brad Smith said. “(The Ambassadors) were playing a lot of guys back in the box and we did okay with it.”
The Roughriders dressed 16 players for the game and that, coupled with a heat wave the team had yet to experience in the past couple weeks of practice, seemed to wear them down a bit late in the game. Their play in the first half — and they were nothing short of dominant — was good enough to get them through in the second though.
“I think we just ran out of some gas,” Smith said. “I’m not going to use that as an excuse though. We got through it, so hopefully we’ll be better for it.”
OCC finally broke through late in the second half when Korben Koenig scored on an assist from Jose Heredia with 6:26 left. That was the Ambassadors’ only shot on goal the entire evening, and one of their few threats. Keeper Gustav Kennestig (Skillingaryd, Sweden) got the win in goal for Crowder.
In the end, however, Crowder’s team speed made all of the difference. They routinely outran their opponents to the ball.
“We have really good speed in general,” Smith said. “You can’t teach speed. I can teach them how to play, but I can’t teach them how to be fast. The kids know they’re fast, so they’re not afraid to punch one out in front and go get it.”
Page 2 of 2 - Taking all factors into consideration, Smith said he was pleased with the way his team came out in the first game.
“We’ll take the win,” he said. “You’ve got to love that.”
The Roughriders will begin a four-game road trip on Saturday against Hesston College at 7 p.m. Saturday in Hesston, Kan.