For much of the first half, the zeroes on the scoreboard in Columbia’s game against Central Baptist College didn’t remotely tell the story.
Columbia was in control from the opening kickoff, peppering CBC goalkeeper Jayme Selph with shots and out-possessing the Mustangs by a significant margin. Central Baptist had the ball for longer than a minute once in the first 20 minutes of the game and never had an actual scoring chance. By any indication other than goals scored, Columbia was dominating.
Then Jewel Morelan scored on a sharp-angle shot from the left side toward the end of the first half — her first of two in the afternoon — and the floodgates burst open.
The Cougars kept up the pressure as the eye test translated to the scoreboard in a 9-0 win over Central Baptist. In their last 180 minutes of soccer, the Cougars have outshot their opponents 86-0.
“Sometimes it just takes somebody doing something on their own, and Jewel did that,” coach John Klein said. “It’s okay to strike balls from 25 yards out, but it’s higher percentage if you’re inside 10 yards, and I was kind of encouraging them to get a little closer to the goal and be little bit more selfish and take it on themselves.”
Even before kickoff, the conditions seemed to favor the Cougars’ possession-heavy approach. Central Baptist (3-5, 2-2 American Midwest Conference) had only 11 players dressed for the game, meaning every player would have to play the entire game, but that wasn’t on Klein’s mind.
“We wanted to work on pressure,” he said. “Didn’t even think about their numbers. We were just gonna try and execute our system and try to get to the goal and score goals. We did have some success today.”
For the second game in a row, Klein emptied his bench in the second half, giving his starters a rest in a match Columbia (6-0, 5-0) had under control despite being up only 3-0 at the break. Fittingly, one of the few starters who remained on the field for the Cougars — defender Abigail Meyer — was the first to score in the second half.
“I typically don’t change our defenders,” Klein said. “That’s kind of our foundation, making sure that we get shutouts, and it all starts from the back. Gradually we removed starting defenders and put in others, but Abby we left back there for a while just to keep things steady.”
Forward Brianna Heath added a pair of goals off the bench, one coming off of a deflection from an attempted clear that tumbled over Selph’s head and into the back of the net.
“That’s important to have depth and believe in those players and have confidence in those players,” Klein said. “Brianna’s a very dangerous player. She’s got a lot of speed, got a lot of fight in her.”
Shortly after Morelan’s opening goal, Columbia added to its lead in the first half when Natalie Peng’s pass several feet off the ground was deflected into the back of the net by Reese Hamilton.
Peng added another goal to her tally on a penalty kick with 30 seconds left on the game. Amazingly, it was not the Cougars’ last of the game; Isabella Govero tacked on one more with 10 seconds left.
Columbia’s next game will be Tuesday against Harris-Stowe State University.
Spotanski leads Cougars men past CBC
On Wednesday night against Missouri Valley College, Joey Spotanski gave the Cougars some life late in the game, breaking through the Vikings’ defense for a goal to give the Cougars a lead they didn’t relinquish.
When Columbia needed a spark against Central Baptist College (3-5-1, 1-3) on Saturday, the junior forward was there again.
With 13 minutes left in the first half, Spotanski broke down the right sideline and beat a pair of Mustangs defenders to the corner. He fired a cross into the middle of the field, and freshman Rece Gilmore finished for the first goal of the game. Spotanski added a goal of his own early in the second half as the Cougars came alive offensively and won 7-0.
“He just does that,” Klein said. “He kinda settled into a role. I think he’s really comfortable with the role coming off the bench, but I wanted to give him the start today and try and get him to keep his energy for the entire first half. He tires 'cause he works so hard, but again he scores another big goal.”
After a quiet start to the game, Columbia’s offense found its rhythm in the second half, getting more time in the offensive zone and more shots on goal than the back-and-forth first period. Parker Moon, Charles Norman, Ximo Gil and Anthony Sobolevsky all scored to turn the game into a rout.
“I thought we did good in that first half,” sophomore forward Nick Brandt said. “I just thought we couldn’t find the goal. In the second half we started to pass more, and then started finding diagonals and getting to the goal more and we just started finishing.”
With the game already well in hand with Columbia (5-1, 5-0) up 6-0, senior midfielder Akins Banton entered and added on less than a minute later, taking advantage of an out-of-position goalkeeper to fire a laser from well outside the box that crashed hard into the back of the net.
“It’s just second nature, because if I look up and see that the keeper is not in the goal, I’m gonna try to shoot it, and it’s something I’ve done before,” he said. “I just got a little courage and hit the ball and it was a beautiful strike.”
Columbia did have its chances — Spotanski missed a header early in the game and Brandt saw a drive deflected over the crossbar — but it was a slow start in what’s become custom for the Cougars recently.
“We had three or four really quality chances in the first half that I think could have made that game three or four to nothing,” Klein said.
The second half saw a rarity for the Cougars this season: someone other than Liam Gibbs in net. After playing several games in 2019, sophomore Carson Linder made his second appearance in 2020.
“He had to do some tactical things and protect the ball,” Klein said. “He certainly had to distribute the ball. They were playing pretty high and he had a lot of touches with his feet. He’s very capable.”