The Liberal Redskins girls soccer team needed just 4 minutes, 46 seconds to get on the board in the 2019 season.
Their goal game off the foot of senior Gisselle Melendez and trickled past Dodge City senior goalkeeper Rachel Garcia.
It was all they needed, and forced the Red Demons (0-1, 0-1 in the WAC) to accept a 1-0 loss Tuesday as the two teams opened their seasons in Dodge City. Final score: Liberal 1, Dodge City 0.
The Red Demons started slow, then had a couple of scoring opportunities near the end of the first half after falling behind, but were unable to put any of them in.
“I think we gained that momentum toward the late first half, but we couldn’t put it away,” Red Demon head coach Saul Hernandez said. “We’re not putting them away. We’re not following up on our shots. Their goalie didn’t catch it on one, and it bounced right in the middle, took about five bounces, and no one was there.”
There were also a number of passes that the team crossed through the Liberal goalkeeper’s box, but in every case Tuesday night, no one was there.
“(We’ve) just got to fix those little things so we can score some goals,” Hernandez said. “We’ve just got to learn how to finish.”
In the second half, the Red Demons came out faster than they had in the first, but slowed down a little bit in the middle part of the second half and gave up more offensive chances in the closing 20 minutes.
On at least two occasions, the Redskins nearly scored, but one shot, off a rebound, was sent way to Garcia’s right and wide of the net. The other hit the post, bounced across the front of the net about 10 yards out, and was eventually cleared by the Red Demons.
Hernandez pointed after the game to the fact that his team is young, and experience practicing outside on the Memorial Stadium turf this season has been limited.
“We’ve only practiced three times outside because of the weather,” Hernandez said. “We haven’t practiced on the big field, and I think we’ve just got to learn how each other play. Once we learn how everyone else plays, I think we’ll build better chemistry and we’ll have a better shot.”
There were some positives, though, for the Red Demons Tuesday.
Hernandez said he thought the girls maintained good body language despite falling behind so early.
“They didn’t hang their heads, they kept on playing through, so that’s a plus from their part,” Hernandez said.
He also was happy with the Demons' defense.
“I think defensively, we did a lot of things right,” Hernandez said. “The mids and the defense worked well together.”
The players also recovered well and tried to play balls instead of kicking them out, something that’s a challenge, he said.
“We’re going to keep on working,” Hernandez said. “It’s only the first game, it’s a young season, and we’re a young team. All we’re going to do is just try to keep improving."
The Demons hit the road for their next game, traveling to Shawnee Mission South for a 7 p.m. start, before playing on the road against Lawrence Free State on Saturday, then in a tournament at Wichita South High School on Monday.
The Demons return home for a game against Hays. That one is currently scheduled for 5:30 p.m. April 2.
- Liberal: Gisselle Melendez (5')
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