The Warren County Lady Pioneer soccer team made an impressive statement in its season opener versus the Lady Owls from Ooltewah. The Lady Pioneers played a physical game when the Lady Owls tried to get physical and the Lady Pioneers kept Ooltewah on its heels and grabbed a 6-1 victory.
WCHS head coach Todd Willmore said, “Thursday night was a great start to our season and something we can build on. The girls were energized by our crowd, which was awesome, especially our student section.”
Just mere moments into the start of the first half, midfielder Larissa Lopez broke free and made a bee-line to the goal. Lopez pulled the trigger and hit her mark for an early 1-0 lead in the first minute of the game.
It didn’t get any better from there for the Lady Owls. What seemed like less than five minutes later, the Lady Pioneers controlled the ball again. After a long pass into the heart of the defense, Madison Mason split two Ooltewah defenders. Just as the Lady Owl goalie came out, Mason crossed over and bumped the ball with her left foot past a sliding attempt at a block by the goalie for a second Lady Pioneer goal. Warren County led 2-0.
Warren County covered the field at almost every available position and it took most of the first half just for Ooltewah to get a shot off. The Lady Owls drove the ball deep into the left corner of the field. The ball was passed back across toward the middle to an awaiting Lady Owl. The first shot was fired into a diving keeper Bailey Walker. The shot ricocheted of Walker’s hands right into the path of a Lady Owl and as she swooped by the front of the goal. Walker dove a second time, but this time the ball was put just out of reach. The Lady Owls trailed 2-1.
Ooltewah was on the board, but the Lady Pioneers responded and immediately went on the attack. Abby Roller headed down the middle of the field with two defenders and a keeper to beat. The odds were not in her favor, but no one told Roller. She split the two defenders and had them beat before she went down hard on a tripping violation by the Lady Owls.
Without wasting any time, Warren County moved into position while the Lady Owls prepared to defend the shot. Sally Willmore stepped in and blasted a shot over the defense and past a goalie who appeared not to be completely ready and Warren County took a commanding 3-1 lead.
The Lady Owls could not seem to put together enough offense as time continued to tick away in the first half. The ball was taken away near midfield by the relentless defensive pressure by Lady Pioneers Olivia Ming and Alana Ortiz. The duo kept the Lady Owl offense grounded, not only in the first half but the majority of the second half also.
The final first-half goal came before the whistle when Willmore found Lindsey Cox on a corner kick that resulted in the Lady Pioneers fourth goal. Warren County led 4-1 at halftime.
In the second half, Warren County hit the Lady Owls again with its aggressive defense. The ball crossed over midfield to Ortiz and she took the ball down the right side. With three defenders between her and the goal, Ortiz pointed to the front of the goal and fired a high-arching shot that fooled even the Ooltewah goalie and dropped into the back far corner of the net. Warren County was up 5-1 just minutes into the second half.
It was pretty much a mirror image of the first half with the exception of the substitutions. The younger Lady Pioneers were able to pick up some valuable playing time. Leg cramps started to hinder the players on both sides of the ball.
The Lady Owls did not roll over and what few shots were attempted were saved.
In the closing minutes, with many varsity players out of the game, Willmore put the ball in play from a corner kick. Willmore sent the kick directly into the front of the net and it could not have worked any better for the Lady Pioneers.
Megan Winkler was in the exact spot she needed to be as the kick from Willmore came toward her. Winkler played a fabulous header into the ground and bounced in Warren County’s sixth goal under the eye of the Lady Owls goal keeper. Warren County led 6-1 and held on until time expired.
Coach Willmore added, “We obviously have many areas we can improve, but it appeared the girls came out early with the right intensity and effort. We were also fortunate to get everyone playing time.”
The next home game for the Lady Pioneers will be Aug. 27 with game time scheduled at 7 p.m.