May 1, 2013

Despite injuries, Lady Chicks advance in playoffs

The Express-Star

CHICKASHA — The Chickasha High School girls soccer team advanced to the second round of the 5A state playoffs, needeing a second-half comeback to beat Heritage Hall at Hampton Field.

Head coach Bethany Goble has called her team a second-half team all season, and that proved true once again on Tuesday, The Lady Chicks were down 1-0 at halftime.

"We just obviously came out not as strong in the first half, and then down 1-0, I told the girls at halftime, I knew we were going to get one, we just needed to go one at a time and step up and win the ball," Goble said.

Things got worse for Chickasha before they got better early in the second half.

With 34:04 to play, Chickasha goalkeeper Casey Black got hit and had to leave the game for precautionary reasons, as she had previously suffered a concussion. She would not return to the game.

Freshman Caitlyn Lee stepped in for Black, making a number of saves and not allowing any goals.

"She stepped up to the challenge and made some key saves for us last night," Goble said.

As of Wednesday, it was undecided whether Black would return and play in Chickasha's next game Friday in Deer Creek.

"We'll see," Goble said. "I care more about her than I do about the game. It's more remnants from her previous concussion. As of now, it's not looking too good. But I care more about her personal health and safety than I do about the game."

Just a few minutes after Black went down, Tara Arnold got hit in the face with a hard-kicked ball, and had to leave the game. She was alright afterward, and returned to the game.

Chickasha tied the game on a goal by Nia Chase, assisted by Amanda Black on a corner kick play with 27:23 left in the second half.

Just six minutes later, Kelsey Taylor  scored the go-ahead goal  on an assist from Arnold.

Once Chickasha got the lead, Goble moved Taylor back into a defender position, as the Lady Chicks were just looking to hold the lead for the rest of the game.

"She's the type of player that we can play anywhere," Goble said. "Even last season, there was a game where she played five different positions. She's just that strong and that much of a fighter. Heritage Hall is a tough team, and I have girls that are beat up and struggling, so I knew as soon as we got that lead she was the first person I was going to pull to the back just to give more depth."

Another adjustment Chickasha has made in recent games is having leading scorer Hannah Elrod play midfielder instead of forward, which puts her in the role of facilitator rather than scorer.

"The last two games she's been in the middle for us, helping us dig out balls and feeding them to our strikers up top," Goble said. "Most teams know Hannah, and when we have her up top she's always triple-teamed. So I felt like she was more useful to us in the middle."

Goble said Elrod enjoys playing the position, and even excels in the different role.

"She actually loves it," Goble said. "She's the kind of player you can put anywhere and she'll succeed. She's a really good playmaker and she'll fight for the ball."

The purpose of moving such a good scorer out of a scoring position is to spread out the workload among different players, and combat opponents' tendency to load up on Elrod.

The emergence of players like Arnold and Taylor Lessig made the transition easier.

"I have girls stepping up and taking on the responsibility. Playing as a team and not just working the ball to one player and thinking the game is over," Goble said. "That's exactly why we did it. Not to put to much pressure on Hannah, but also to show other girls they need to step up, and we're a team effort."

The Lady Chicks will play the Deer Creek Lady Antlers at 7 p.m. Friday at Deer Creek High School in Edmond for the second round of the state playoffs.

Deer Creek is 11-3 this season, with only one loss to an in-state school.