January 8, 2013 10:48:14 PM
Finishing is the final piece for the Caledonia High School boys soccer team.
In its last game, Caledonia possessed the ball and controlled a large part of the match only to see its territorial advantage go for naught when it was unable to finish its scoring opportunities. New Hope capitalized with a goal late in the second half for a 1-0 victory.
The holiday break and rainy weather has limited the Confederates chances to work on finishing as a team, but they showed Tuesday they may be ready to capitalize on their ability to hold the ball.
Josh Kugel scored a goal and assisted on another to lead Caledonia to a 4-0 victory against the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science at the Burns Bottom Soccer Complex.
Kobi VanSommeren, Ryan Ahrens, and Luke Eads also scored for Caledonia, which improved to 1-2 in Class 4A, Region 2, District 1. The losses came to Amory and Pontotoc in the first meetings. The return matches will come quickly, starting Friday at Pontotoc, which is why the timing of the Confederates' finishing was a welcome sight.
"We have been hitting (finishing) hard, but it hasn't mainly been finishing," said Kugel, a senior midfielder. "It has been a combination of finishing off the cross and off the possession. Everything works around the possession and the cross and, eventually, the finishing will happen. It is just one of those things that you have to let it flow and let it happen."
Ahrens finished his goal off a nice setup following a chip pass. Kugel's goal came off assists from Robert Mims and VanSommeren that set up him for a solid strike into the upper right corner.
Kugel and Will Rollins combined to set Eads up for a goal that accounted for the final margin. Eads took the final pass, touched it to himself, and finished to the lower left corner.
Kugel said it is just a matter of relaxing for the Confederates because they have confidence in their ability to possess the ball. Against MSMS, coach Marco Suårez moved Mims from stopper to outside midfielder, which added another technical and quick player to an attack that kept the ball moving the final 40 minutes. Suårez liked what he saw from the combination play of Mims and VanSommeren, as well as James Longmire's play at stopper, and said the Confederates likely will stick with the formation.
Suårez also said Caledonia has focused on having tempo to its passing drills because that is the style Pontotoc uses. He said the final portions of practice have focused on finishing. In their first match of 2013 (a match scheduled for Saturday against Winona was canceled), Caledonia made the most of its territorial edge.
"After we moved players around, we improved the level and moved the ball faster," Suårez said.
Kugel also helped orchestrate things in the middle of the field. Caledonia was able to string five and six passes together at a time, something they did against New Hope with nothing to show for it. On his night, though, VanSommeren's early goal and a timely save by goalkeeper Jeremy Reedwood on MSMS' only real scoring chance allowed the Confederates to settle in and dictate the tempo.
Kugel said their ability to do that in rematches against Pontotoc and Amory will determine how long their season will stay alive. The ability to finish off that possession will make things a lot easier.
"It felt as though the finishing was (a lot different from the New Hope match Dec. 18)," Kugel said. "We possessed it about the same amount of time, it just was unfortunate. The ball just didn't bounce our way. There is nothing you can do about it. You have to look past it and look to the future. We have a big game coming against Pontotoc. We have to win that one and then beat Amory by one more than they beat us."
(Amory beat Caledonia 2-1 in penalty kicks.)
Kugel feels the Confederates have the ability to possess and to finish against Pontotoc and Amory as well as they did against MSMS. He said desire will be the difference.
"We can beat anybody on any given day. We just have to want it and work for it," Kugel said. "We have to make ourselves possess the ball. Most of the time when we play higher caliber teams we tend to try to rush things more and things fall apart. It's downhill from there. It snowballs. If we keep our heads and don't let them get into it and play like we have been, we should be all right."
Caledonia girls 4, MSMS 0
The Lady Confederates thought they were in trouble.
Any time coach Jason Forrester opts to take the team way from the field it usually means he isn't pleased with the performance and he is going to let the players know about it.
This time, though, things were a little quieter. Leading 1-0 at halftime, Forrester hit the reset button and encouraged his players to take a breath, relax, and let things come to them. As a result, the second 40 minutes were a lot more to Forrester's liking.
"Two goals in nine minutes," Forrester said. "I am pleased with how they played the whole game, but I am very pleased with how they played in the second half."
Caledonia (10-7) used goals by Brooke Lester, Peyton Stanley, and Hope Burton in a more aggressive second half. After the game, Caledonia received good news when it learned Pontotoc defeated Amory in penalty kicks. Caledonia already has a victory against Pontotoc in penalty kicks, and with district games remaining against Amory, MSMS, and Pontotoc, it can win the district if it wins out.
To do that, Forrester knows his team will have to bring the same energy Friday night and Tuesday night against Amory. He said it was good for the players to get their legs back under them because they realize the importance of the final stretch of the season.
"They understand the urgency, too," Forrester said. "Last year being the first year we missed the playoffs, it hurt them. They don't want to miss it again, but they understand they have a lot of work still left ahead of them. Pontotoc isn't going to take losing to us lightly, so we will have to play our best game Friday."
Tres Southard tucked home a loose ball after a shot by Emily Brewer in the first half.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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