On a freshly-thawed home field still surrounded by piles of leftover snow, the Pawhuska Lady Huskies kicked off the 2014 high school soccer season Thursday night with a 3-1 triumph over the Mannford Lady Pirates.
Keylee Kirk scored once in each half and Karissa Hughes added the middle goal for the Lady Huskies, who won their first-ever game under new head coach Giovanie Soliano.
"It’s a start is about all I really can say," said Soliano, a former professional-level player from the Caribbean island of Bonaire. "We still need a lot of work if we’re going to make it to the (state) playoffs."
Before a shivering but enthusiastic crowd at Ormand Beach Memorial Stadium, the PHS girls grabbed a lead 14 minutes into the contest when midfielder Kirk touched one in from just outside the box after advancing a throw-in by Haley Mouser.
The Lady Huskies made it 2-0 with nine minutes remaining in the opening half as sophomore forward Hughes caught a crossing pass from Macy Hurd and hammered the point past the goalie of the Lady Pirates.
Mannford notched its lone tally less than three minutes before the half ended. The booming goal by Lady Pirate midfielder Ale Millison deprived PHS freshman goalkeeper Jenna Shulanberger was denied a shutout in the initial appearance of her Lady Huskie varsity career by The PHS winning effort got further support from a solid defender corps that included senior Katylyn Swan and sophomores Danae Laird and Mouser.
There was 13:40 left to play when Kirk’s second scoring boot of the night came from 10 yards away off a long set-up pass from Carlie Culver, the iron-legged senior midfielder of the Lady Huskies. Culver and standout senior midfielder Morgan Waddle provided strong all-around performances for the home squad.
Members of the Pawhuska squad gained some valuable experience in pre-season tournaments at Claremore and Catoosa, according to Soliano. He said progress has been hampered by a lack of full-team workouts. Several key players — including junior Andie Sweeden and sophomores Kirk, Sarah Phiilippi and Genie Herren — concluded basketball season only a week before the soccer opener.
"Keylee had only been able to practice a couple of times, but she came in to give us the first and last goals against Mannford," Soliano said.
The coach added that there would be little time to prepare before the season’s second match (which was scheduled for Tuesday) versus Victory Christian.
"About all we can do Monday is have a short workout and then watch the film from our match with Mannford," said Soliano.
He said next week’s Spring Break will provide further disruption of the team’s practice schedule and causw a two-week gap between matches.
"It will be a challenge to get ready for our district," Soliano said. "We need to beat those (district) teams so that we can have home-field advantage in the playoffs."
The Lady Huskies are due to open District 4A-5 play at Oologah on March 25. Then, after a March 28 game at Bristow, Pawhuska resumes district action on April 1 (no fooling!) with a road match against the defending Class 4A-state champion Verdigris Lady Cardinals.
Other district matchups include: April 3 against Tulsa Rogers, to be played on the Tulsa Washington field; at home versus Tulsa Central on Thursday, April 10; at Commerce on April 17 and back home against Miami on Friday, April 25. (Wesleyan Christian is listed on the district schedule as an April 14 home match, but officials at the Bartlesville school said last week that the Lady Mustangs are not expecting to field a team.)
The coach pointed out that two 4A-5 squads lost their season-openers last week, as Miami’s Lady Wardogs dropped a 3-0 decision to Wagoner and the Oologah-Talala Lady Mustangs were blanked, 4-0, by Claremore Sequoyah.
In last year’s Class 4A playoffs, Mannford won a play-in game over Hilldale, 2-1, a week after the Muskogee-area Lady Hornets knocked Pawhuska out of contention with a 2-1 overtime triumph at Hilldale. Sequoyah then beat the Lady Pirates, 4-0, before losing to Verdigris in OT, 3-2. The Lady Cardinals clinched their fourth straight 4A crown with back-to-back 3-0 victories over Harrah and Fort Gibson.
Soliano is the third head soccer coach in the four-year history of the Pawhuska program. He inherits remnants of a team that narrowly missed the Class 4A playoffs a year ago after winning its way into the state tournament in 2012, during its inaugural competitive season.
Other girls on this year’s PHS roster include seniors Dava Daylight, Anna Schroeder and Kailsey Cheves, junior Ashley Youngwolfe, sophomores Stephanie Clifton, Bailey Sutherland and Hannah Horn and freshmen Sidney Sellers, McKenzie Fortney and Brett Smith.
PAWHUSKA 3, MANNFORD 1
LADY PIRATES: 1 - 0 — 1
LADY HUSKIES : 2 - 1 — 3
26:05 — Pawhuska goal by Keylee Kirk
08:59 — Pawhuska goal by Karissa Hughes (Macy Hurd assist)
02:46 — Mannford goal by Ale Millison
13:40 — Pawhuska goal by Keylee Kirk (Carlie Culver assist)
Shots on goal: Mannford 10, Pawhuska 14 (Karissa Hughes 3, Keylee Kirk 3, Macy Hurd 2, Sarah Phillippi 2, Carlie Culver 2, Andie Sweeden 1, Morgan Waddle 1). Goalkeepers: Pawhuska, Jenna Shulanberger (8 saves); Mannford, Tasha Minet (4 saves).