Columbus girls soccer coach Russell Oliver knew his team would have a tough time against Northgate on Wednesday at the Woodruff Farm Soccer Complex, and the final result confirmed that assumption.
The Lady Blue Devils were outworked and outplayed in a 3-1 loss to the Lady Vikings, who are in arguably the toughest region in Class AAAAA.
Call it a wake-up game for Columbus.
“In a game like this, I mean, that’s a great team,” Oliver said of Northgate. “We knew we wouldn’t get many opportunities. We knew we’d have to play flawless soccer to pull this out. That’s why we scheduled them. Hopefully, we learned something.”
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Although Columbus (9-3, 5-1) scored just two minutes into the game on a kick from the right side by Nikiay Comer (assisted by Abby Roth), it was shut out the rest of the game, managing just a handful of opportunities on the goal.
Northgate (9-3, 6-2), meanwhile, got three goals from Lily Barron, one late in the first half to tie the score and two in the second half. Her final goal, which gave her a hat trick at the 74-minute mark, was on a corner kick from Katie Mitchell and effectively put the game out of reach for Columbus.
Oliver was unhappy with his team’s overall performance, stressing its inability to create opportunities.
“That’s a fundamental we’ve been trying to work on as a team,” he said. “You have to anticipate rather than react. Make runs, open passing lanes and put pressure on defenders. When we just react, it puts pressure on us.”
Columbus, which was the state runner-up in Class AAA last season, defeated a tough opponent in Carrollton in its last game before spring break. After the week off, Oliver wondered whether his players were still in a celebratory mode rather than looking ahead to the rest of the season.
If that was the case, he said, a game like this is one that could help get his players focused for the rest of the season.
“I’m disappointed because I don’t think we played to our ability,” he said. “I think we’ll take something from this, though. We can see a team of this caliber early in the state playoffs, so we need to get better.”
Oliver hasn’t shied away from scheduling difficult opponents to help prepare his team. In their next game, the Lady Blue Devils will face Whitewater (13-2, 9-0), which comes from the same region as Northgate, home to other state powers like McIntosh and Starr’s Mill.
He expects another difficult test in that game, noting that there’s always the possibility of a loss.
“We know we’ll lose some of these games, but I’m alright with that as long as we benefit from it,” he said.
As to whether his team took something away from the loss to Northgate, Oliver wasn’t immediately sure. It’s hard to judge after a performance that wasn’t up to its capability, he said.
For now, he can only hope to focus on the positives and build from that.
“We held our own for awhile,” he said. “It was good to get the first goal. I don’t know if maybe we got a little overconfident from that or what, but we didn’t really follow up on it. We need to build from there and learn how to keep the pressure on.
David Mitchell, 706-571-8571; Follow David on Twitter @leprepsports.
Wednesday at Woodruff Farm
Goals—Northgate, Lily Barron (30th minute, 55th minute, 74th minute); Columbus, Nikiay Comer (2nd minute). Assists—Northgate, Katie Mitchell; Columbus, Abby Roth. Records—Northgate, 9-3, 6-2; Columbus, 9-3, 5-1. Next—Northgate, Tues. vs. Mount Zion; Columbus, Fri. vs. Whitewater.