The Westminster Christian Academy Wildcats head into the Class 3 girls soccer sectional round for the first time since 2008.
Westminster scored its first district win since 2008 back when the program was in Class 1. The Wildcats recorded a 2-0 victory over Parkway West to win the Class 3 District 3 championship.
“I really didn’t know the last time we have won a district title but [I] knew it had been a while,” said Bill Lawrence, who is in his first year as the Westminster head coach. “But it means so much to get a win for all the work that previous players and coaches have put into this program up to this point. I am just thrilled for these 2018 soccer players to be able to represent Westminster soccer in a positive way and dedicate this title to all those that played and coached before us.
“Getting a title added to our program is huge. It puts Westminster on the map for soccer players to come here and enjoy great Christian education and play some quality soccer.”
Westminster [16-3] will host Summit [15-2-3] at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 22.
“We are glad to be playing on our home field and on real grass – how soccer was meant to be played,” Lawrence said. “[I’m] not familiar with much history with Summit, maybe a small tourney game that went to OT [overtime]. I think we lost, but we know we need to be ready to be at this position in the year.”
To advance to the quarterfinals, Lawerence emphasized the team aspect of the game.
“To move on, [we need] a total team effort with timely goals scored, tough defense and solid midfield play and, of course, some favorable bounces everything you need to keep advancing,” Lawrence said. “Summit is a well-coached, hard-playing team and we need to stay patient and focused to advance.”
The Wildcats played well heading into the playoffs. Lawrence liked what he saw from the girls.
“I was very pleased with the regular season. I stressed to the team that we need to be playing our best soccer in May and not be to concern ourselves with our record,” Lawrence said. “I assumed we would start off slow with a young team and take a while to find ourselves. But we took off.”
The Wildcats took a four-game winning streak into districts after back-to-back losses to Parkway West and Kirkwood. In a way, those two losses helped Westminster, Lawrence said.
“The double OT loss to West on their field really stung and we followed that by playing very lethargic against a determined Kirkwood team,” Lawrence said. “The back-to-back losses were probably a good thing to get us focused. We had some injuries and returning junior, Molly Andersen, from an extensive injury really helped our team. Molly is a crafty playmaker and an important player in our system.
“So, having a four-game winning streak and finishing our scoring chances again was great heading into districts.”
Westminster opened postseason play against Visitation Academy. In his pregame talk, Lawrence focused on playing and not thinking about past encounters with Visitation.
“I told the team before the first district game that we belong here and can play with them and be confident,” Lawrence said. “We can do nothing about previous district games against them. They are a well-coached team and have always had talented players. We knew they would be very determined since we won our first regular season game of the year against them 3-0.
“I encouraged them to play like we did the first time against them.”
Westminster did just that. The Wildcats won 3-1.
“We managed to survive the first half against their push, and were fortunate to score a great goal on a beautiful cross by senior midfielder Sarah Shoemaker to freshman forward Margo O’Meara for the head ball goal,” Lawrence said. “Viz continued pressing and tied it before half off a corner kick scramble. We did not play our best soccer that first half. I challenged them at half to pick it up. We were a much a better team than we played the first half and I knew Viz would respond.
“We needed to step up like I knew they could. We really settled down in the second half and played a much better possession game and finished our chances. Margo O’Meara draws a crowd from the defense and found an open Molly Andersen in the box to score the eventual game winner. Margo again took a pass between the defense from senior center midfielder, Mollie Ottsen, and ripped a shot to the far post to ice the game.”
That win set up a rematch with Parkway West for District 3 crown. The Wildcats remembered the 1-0 to Longhorns.
“In the first West game, we learned how hard they come at you through the middle of the field,” Lawrence said. “We made some adjustments with freshman Annessa Shivley in the middle that helped tremendously, but West is a deep team and kept coming. We hoped to win more balls at midfield which we did much better than the first game. They had a very strong defense we knew we needed to be crafty in our attack.”
After the first half, there was no score. It was an evenly matched game, Lawrence said.
“West was pressing dangerously well but our back four played so well together and with such poise,” Lawrence said. “Sophomore middle backs Sophia Sacco and Hannah Ottsen, freshman wingback Grace Clement and senior Alexis Turner held them back (along) with steady defensive midfield play from Rachel Arndt Molly Ottsen and Kelly Bradley.”
Two freshmen really played well for the Wildcats.
“Two standouts on defense were freshman goalie Zoe Lintner, making numerous saves and getting some luck from the goal post, too,” Lawrence said. “Freshman wingback, Grace Clement, had the defensive play of the game to rob a for sure breakaway goal, by using an old fashion classic slide tackle to save the game. You just don’t see the classic clean slide tackle like you used to.”
Offensively, Andersen again scored the game-winner to relieve the pressure. O’Meara recorded another postseason assist.
O’Meara was fouled just outside the box late in the game. Senior Mollie Ottsen calmly ripped home the second goal off that free kick to put the game away.
It was a good win for the Wildcats.
“West is a strong team and we were very fortunate to get some breaks and finish our chances in a tightly contested game,” Lawrence said. “The girls have worked hard all year long so they were very excited to finally win a district title. We set our goal on playing our best soccer in May and they have done that. They are thrilled.”
It was exciting for Lawrence as well.
“Being a first-year varsity coach, I was overwhelmed a little, but incredibly excited,” Lawrence said. “I played this win over in my head all week. I just couldn’t be happier for the girls who have played in this program a long time and finally to have the district title.”
What impressed Lawrence was how well the Wildcats played as a team.
“The district highlights for me was a total team effort, timely goals scored, tough defense and solid midfield play,” Lawrence said. “We have a lot of talent on this team with different levels of experience at the high school level and they have jelled so well as a unit.
“I’m thrilled for the girls, the program, and the school to be in this position in the tournament. Win or lose, I’m so proud of this team. It’s been an exciting year. This team is special. My first coaching job at Westminster was as the seventh grade girls soccer when our seniors were in seventh grade. What a cool opportunity to be a part of their senior year and to have the success we have had. It makes it extra special to me.”