After a shaky start, Hickman’s midfield clamped down in the second half.
The Kewpies held Rock Bridge without a shot in the second half and rarely allowed the Bruins past midfield to secure a 1-0 victory Wednesday at Audrey J. Walton Stadium.
“Their midfield play was outstanding,” Bruins coach Marc Vandover said. “They were keeping us from getting the ball out wide, which I thought was an area where they were susceptible. They put so much pressure on us in the second half, we kind of went into a defensive mode.”
Rock Bridge avoided Hickman’s midfield in the first half, kicking long passes to sprinting players downfield. In the second half, Hickman increased its pressure and forced the Bruins to the middle of the field.
“The first half, they were just able to kick it long to their strikers,” Kewpies midfielder Rachel Mediema said. “In the second half I felt like our forwards put a lot of pressure on them so they had to possess through the middle and our midfielders were marking well in the middle and shutting that down.”
Ball movement sets up Kewpies shots on goal
Once Hickman had possession, it used good ball movement throughout the field to set up shots.
“We just tried to pass to feet and play with each other and open up some opportunities,” Mediema said. “Our offense goes through our midfield and I thought we were really successful with that tonight.”
The Kewpies’ successful ball movement started at their controlled receptions.
“We were winning balls in the midfield and settling them at our feet and that allowed us to pass the ball to feet,” Hickman midfielder Jodi Bolerjack said. “In the first half we were just kicking it right out of the air.”
Kewps improved passing creates seven shots in second half
Hickman coach Sandy Paulsen said controlled passing allowed the Kewpies to increase their shot total from two shots in the first half to seven in the second half.
“That was the major difference in the second half,” Paulsen said. “When we were coming to receive a ball, if we were under pressure we would send it back. Our defense could then find the midfielders and work it around.”
Hickman’s ball control and patient offensive style paid off in the 78th minute when Janelle Cordia broke through the Rock Bridge defense for the winning goal.
Despite the goal, Vandover said he was was happy with his team’s defensive performance.
“Hickman is a dominant team, I thought our team played really well, especially in the defensive third.” Vandover said. “Our defensive effort was very, very strong.”
Depth, speed at midfield gives Hickman advantage
Hickman’s midfield depth gave the Kewpies a decided advantage in the second half.
“They’re a really fast team and they have a lot of skill.” Rock Bridge’s Sophia Alioto said. “They made a lot of substitutions and they had fresh legs out on the field, so it was hard.”
Mediema agreed with her opponent.
“We have five strong center midfielders and a lot of good outside midfielders,” Mediema said. “We trust everyone on the bench to be able to go in and maintain the same level of intensity.”