Lions girls soccer splits first two games of season

The Kalli Schwehr era officially got underway for the Cottage Grove Lions girls soccer team when they faced off against the Philomath Warriors at home on Wednesday, Sept.9. While it wasn’t an easy matchup for the Lions, they stayed competitive and held their own against the Warriors offensive attack early on. 

Lions girls soccer coach Kalli Schwehr, who was coaching her first game as head coach, said, “For the most part, we have a strong defensive line and we have two great keepers. But once you are down a few goals, it can be really hard to come back from that mentally. You can play as hard as you want, but if you feel like you’ve already lost, then that’s what you put out there on the field. We are working on changing that mentality.”

 At 35 minutes left in the first half, Warriors sophomore midfielder Isabel Morales scored Philomath’s first goal. The Lions defenders and goalkeeper held their own from then until about 9:00 minutes left in the first half, when junior midfielder Bailey Bell added another goal on for the Warriors. The Lions struggled to find opportunities to score and Philomath went into halftime with a 4-0 lead over Cottage Grove.

“We have some very talented forwards that sometimes just get lost in the shuffle of playing soccer in the way CG has always played soccer — booting the ball from the defense to the forwards and watching the forwards run around in circles trying to keep possession or sprint faster than the other team,” Schwehr said. “We are not going to be that type of team, so we are really working at our passes, keeping our heads up while we have the ball at our feet, and being aware of our surroundings. Our forwards have great instincts in where to be, we just have to start capitalizing on the passing and moving.”

The Lions would go on to lose their first match of the season 8-0, with the mercy rule going into effect with about eight minutes left in the second half. Cottage grove battled defensively much of the evening.

“I have a group of incredibly dedicated and hardworking individuals on this team. I am always encouraged by their willingness to push themselves. We have so much potential and if we can keep the morale up and keep the team together as a unit, then this season will be fantastic,” Schwehr added.

Despite a brutal way to lose their opening match of the season, the Lions would have a chance to bounce back quickly. The very next day, they hosted the Stayton Eagles, and Cottage Grove was determined.

“With two games back to back, it’s really tough to get any good instruction in, so encouragement is key for me,” Schwehr said. “The important first step is to reiterate that the big picture for the game is to put your heart and soul on the field. If you do that and you work with your team as a unit, then we don’t have a problem, win or lose. Then encourage them to think about it as a learning moment, it doesn’t define them. Finally, as we prep for a new game, bring the morale up. Forget about the previous game completely-— don’t compare and don’t talk about it. It’s over and done. Give them key points of improvement that they can understand quickly and make work quickly, and don’t let them forget about those points, repeat them as often as necessary all game. And finally, just get them in a game mentality.”

The Lions were able take an early 2-0 lead over the Eagles and never looked back. Cottage Grove earned their first victory of the season 3-2.

“Our girls were more aware of each other’s playing styles [than in the game against Philomath],” Schwehr said. “They understood where they each individually went wrong yesterday and were able to correct that, and honestly, they had nothing to lose. They had just come off of a huge loss and there was nowhere to go but up. The power of your mentality in the game is so under appreciated. Our girls displayed a lot of similar issues that we saw at the first game, with their first touches and pin ball like play, which we are working on, but their heads were in the game. They knew what they wanted, and that they had control over it, and they made it happen.”

The Lions had a game scheduled Saturday against Cascade, but due to poor air quality it was canceled. They were scheduled to play Tuesday on the road at Phoenix High School in Southern Oregon. At the time of print it is unknown if they were able to play. Cottage grove will play at home against Klamath Union tonight, Thursday, Sept. 15, at 7 p.m.

“Our first game was brutal. We played a team that was better and more prepared and it was tough and we suffered a lot of injuries on our first night. But our girls have had four coaches in four years. This is a program we are building and despite the loss, we are learning and growing and can only get better from here. It was the first game setting this group has been in together and that is huge. Coach Basting and I learning a lot about where we want certain girls to be playing and what our key issues are as a team. It was a hard game to watch and hard to play in, but at this point in time, I think we are all grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow together,” Schwehr concluded.