While the Mexico varsity girls soccer team was supposed to begin the 2017-18 season on Tuesday at home with a non-league game against Fatima, that contest had to be postponed a day because Chris Hotop Field was far too wet to play on due to Mondays rain.
So, when these squads met up for the rematch on Wednesday and Fatima charted its initial score of the contest at 35:13 of the opening half, the fact the Lady Bulldogs responded with shots on goal at 33:24 and 32:15, the first of which came off the foot of Rosanna McKeown, the game appeared even. But, when Fatima then hit nothing but net at 27:24 and would have went up 3-0 at 24:56 had it not been for an incredible save, it was just a matter of time until Mexico slowly but surely ended up falling 6-0.
"Out of 11 players on the field I had two players in their traditional positions. We're really trying early in the season to find everybody's home and where everybody is going to fit," said Mexico head coach Haley Schaefer. "We had a couple of defensive breakdowns, but we had a very young, new back line. I think that has a lot to do with it. We do have some good senior leaders and we're passing well through the middle and back outside to get some nice chances at goal and balls across the goal, though."
Fatima's next offensive uprisings came at 21:09 and 19:59, and while the Lady Bulldogs McKeown once again forced the opposing netminder to make a play from a distance at 18:30, it was at 6:15 when she was in the most peril and had to step up and make a stop from up close. McKeown then got another shot off for Mexico at 3:20, and while the team had a nice crossing pass after that so nice it crossed all the way to the sideline, Fatima was now up 4-0 and that's how the game would go into halftime.
"McKeown is a big factor in our offense. She can carry the ball down the line and get a ball across the goal for someone to finish or she can take a defender one on one," Schaefer said. "We're going to look for that through-ball a lot more often with her. She seems to have the speed to take on a back line. She's a very strong offensive player. We have good things to look forward to in the future. The communication looks good. Taking chances doesn't hurts us. Not taking chances hurts us."
In the second half both teams spent a lot more time in the middle of the field, but the more time that passed the closer and closer Fatima got to the Lady Bulldogs net. Finally, at 14:01, Mexico's defense allowed the ball to get behind it, so even though its goalie knew where to be and how to play the angles, once again she was the victim of Fatima's patience and passing, which now grew the deficit to 5-0 for the home team.
"Mental toughness is going to be huge for us. We are extremely young and this is a program that hasn't won a lot of games in the last couple years, so we're really focusing on mental toughness," said Schaefer. "Not giving up and recognizing the play isn't over. We have 80 minutes each game and we need to play the entire 80 minutes. This team also needs to understand (assistant) coach (Ed) Costley and I have their backs. We're not going to get mad if they take shots that aren't great or if they miss."
Then, at 10:08, Fatima scored one last goal. This forced the Lady Bulldogs on to the wrong end of a 6-0 decision. Mexico, 0-1 overall, next plays a non-conference game against Winfield on March 26.
"Coach Costley has been amazing. He's brought a lot of knowledge to the program, especially coaching knowledge. I'm a young, new coach, so he's been a great addition to our program. Not only for the girls and as a mentor, but for myself," Schaefer said. "Winfield was a 1-0 loss for us last year. They got an early goal and it was the first game of the season. At this point I'm focused on our game as opposed to what they've got going on. We'll definitely focus on getting more chances from outside."