Mexico continues to improve, despite losses

Mexico continues to improve, despite losses
Addison Heim blocks a shot before it reaches Mexico goalkeeper Tessa Haefling on Wednesday. The Bulldogs fell 7-0. [Dave Faries]
By: 
Dave Faries
Editor

The Bulldogs say they can feel it.

Despite another loss – 7-0 to visiting Kirksville on Wednesday night – the team continues to look forward, marking their improvement along the way.

“Imagine when we’re seniors,” said sophomore midfielder Estrella Lopez.

Mexico was coming off their best performance of the year. On Monday night at Wright City, the Bulldogs fell 4-1. Jamilet Medina scored the lone goal from a Wyndee Bohr pass.

On Wednesday Mexico struggled to connect on the counter, crossing into Kirksville territory with any serious intention only five times on the night. But they were only down 2-0 at the break, thanks to steady play by the center backs.

“I feel the improvement,” said Lizzie Joiner. “I’m more comfortable in the position.”

Joiner followed a safety first philosophy. At least five times on the night she stood firmly in the box, heading away a threatening Tigers effort.

Mexico goalkeeper Tessa Haefling was called on to make just two saves in the opening four minutes. The Bulldogs conceded two goals in the first 10 minutes of play.

Then things heated up as Kirksville began to exploit Mexico’s inexperience. Haefling hustled out of the six yard box to take on the Tigers’ Kensleigh Griego one on one, recording a brilliant save. Moments later she beat Rileigh McLain.

With just over two minutes on the clock, Haefling again came out of the box to cancel Graci Gebhardt’s challenge.

“I have to be aggressive,” the Mexico keeper said.

Haefling gave credit to the Bulldogs’ young back line, noting their improved marking. But Kirksville ramped up the pressure in the second half. Gebhardt slipped one through five minutes in. Five minutes later, McLain added to the visitors’ tally.

But the Haefling kept working. By the end of the game she had recorded 15 saves.

With just one senior on the roster and a number of first time soccer players in starting roles, coach Haley Schafer admits the team is unlikely to achieve success in the short term.

Like Lopez and her teammates realize, this is a long game.

“We’re focused on each game, where can we improve,” Schafer said.

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