By Brian Paglia
For much of the game, Ola perceived the myriad of missed opportunities it produced on offense as a harbinger that, with enough persistence, goals were coming. Watching the Lady Mustangs attack Harris County at will, one could expect Ola would surely add to its lead and break the Tigers' will.
But a 30-second span in the second half left Ola wondering what could have been had its missed chances been more fruitful. With a 1-0 lead and 10 minutes remaining, two defensive lapses by Ola proved fatal, for Harris County senior Tanner Pritchard produced two goals that were the difference in a stunning 2-1 defeat in the first round of the Class AAAA tournament Wednesday.
"The other team played with some intensity," said Ola girls soccer coach Lonnie Wheeler. "We had opportunities to win it and we didn't take advantage of it."
The clock on the scoreboard read 70:09 when Pritchard scored her first, capitalizing on a poor clear by an Ola defender in the box that gave the senior forward a short and clear shot past Lady Mustangs goalkeeper Ashley Monsrud (eight saves).
The clock on the scoreboard read 70:40 when Pritchard unleashed a shot from 30 yards out that soared and curved above Monsrud, a perfect shot and the eventual game-winner.
"That was a point-blank shot," Wheeler said. "There was no stopping that."
Harris County couldn't stop Ola's offensive attack.
The Lady Mustangs created 20 shots and five corner kicks.
Just three minutes in, Kelsey Owen received a pass from Meininger in the box but had her shot smothered. Ten minutes later, Taylor Hockley had an open look at the goal with Harris County's goalkeeper caught out of position, but her shot was wide.
On and on it went, opportunity after opportunity lost, a stark contrast to March 13 when the Lady Mustangs had no offensive difficulties in a 3-0 win over the Tigers.
"It's like in any sport," Wheeler said. "It's like a slump in baseball. ... It wasn't our day."
Third-seeded Harris County (8-9-2) came into the state tournament bolstered by its play during the second half of the regular season. The Tigers started the season 2-7-1 and kicked its best three players off the team, according to third-year head coach Sondra Palmer.
But Harris County persevered. It went 5-2-1 the rest of the way and perhaps found a resolve that came in handy after falling behind early on an own goal in the 18th minute.
Ola's Lauren Roberts started the sequence with a long pass to Victoria Meininger from the backfield. Meininger took it down the sideline and crossed a shot into the box. The shot didn't find a teammate, but a Harris County defender inadvertently kicked it over the Tigers' goalkeeper to give Ola a 1-0 lead.
"That was bad," Palmer said.
"Their heads were down. I turned around and said, 'What happened? I didn't see it.' And everyone was like, 'Whew.' And I said, 'Hey, that's OK, because when I was turned around adjusting they scored. That was my fault for turning around and trying to adjust. We all make mistakes. We've got to shake that off.'
"We did a good job. I'm proud of the girls. We've had a hard season.
We kicked three of our best players off, because
I believe in morals, values and ethics and they didn't have them. So we're suffering because we're down (players), but it seems to be paying off."