Inconsistent offense slowing Thomas girls
Despite posting three shutouts and allowing more than two goals just once in its first six games, the Thomas Worthington High School girls soccer team had only two victories to show for its effort.
That's because the Cardinals were shut out three times and scored more than one goal just once in their 2-3-1 start.
"The defense has probably been the most consistent of the group and that was pretty much expected coming into the season," coach Tim Barton said. "We still have made some costly and uncommon mistakes, but that happens early in the season and they have grown from it.
"The girls have worked hard on that side of the ball and the shutouts are due to the whole group of girls working hard for that common goal."
Thomas posted shutout wins over Upper Arlington (1-0 on Aug. 28) and Westland (10-0 on Sept. 4) in OCC-Central Division contests and played Olentangy to a scoreless tie Aug. 23.
In addition to the tie against the Braves, the Cardinals failed to score in losses to Pickerington North (1-0 on Aug. 25) and Dublin Jerome (6-0 on Aug 30). Their other loss was 2-1 to Olentangy Orange on Sept. 6.
"We only scored once in the first four matches," Barton said. "We have been able to score in the last two but are still struggling with our consistency on the offensive side. We did create a few opportunities in those first games where we were shut out, but just failed to convert.
"We have been our own worst enemy when it comes to scoring. Creating more opportunities would help our chance in scoring, but without capitalizing, it will not change the final result."
Having lost eight starters from a year ago to graduation after his team finished 11-4-3, Barton knew his defenders would have to carry the load this season. The Cardinals have experience in the back with seniors Maddy Maxwell, Karly Boehm and Annie McFarland helping freshman defender Maddy Hamilton in front of first-year goalkeepers Bethany Geiser and Sydney Sanders.
"It gives the keepers a little piece of mind knowing that their defensive line will do anything they can to help them out," said Barton, whose team was 2-0 in the OCC-Central before facing Dublin Coffman on Sept. 11. "The whole team is trying hard not to put that pressure on the keepers to make really tough saves by playing solid, mistake-free defense.
"The keepers have responded well and are getting better and learning from each game. I think we all are learning from each game and trying to build from there."
In the meantime, the Cardinals are searching for ways to put the ball in the net more consistently.
"We do tend to get a little impatient on the offensive end," Barton said. "The girls do a decent job of possessing and moving the ball down field but have a tendency to not continue what has gotten them to that point, thus making unnecessary mistakes that take away those offensive opportunities."
Not helping the situation is the fact that captain Leighann Holcomb, a center midfielder, was injured in the opener against Olentangy and may miss a few more weeks with a strained quadriceps.
"We are eagerly awaiting her return," Barton said. "She brings a lot of dynamics to the team, especially on the offensive side, and should help alleviate some of the offensive issues we have been dealing with."
Holmcomb's return also could aid the team chemistry, according to Barton.
"I think we are missing that chemistry on the field," he said. "We have to learn to mentally play 80 minutes strong and not commit those one or two mental mistakes that can change a game and give ourselves a better chance of winning. And at the same time, we need to take advantage of our chances to score and put teams away early in a match.
"I think they are ahead of the curve as it pertains to their ability to possess the ball when they put their minds to it and work as a team. As they gain more confidence, I am hoping to build and expand their roles and opportunities that can be created on the field."