Timely score helps Lady Jays soccer

LePage's goal key in sectional win against Hickman

Jefferson City’s Tayler LePage (right) celebrates after scoring the first goal of Tuesday’s Class 3 sectional game with Hickman at the 179 Soccer Park. Looking on for the Kewpies are Adison Capell (left) and goalkeeper Emily Miller.

Jefferson City’s Tayler LePage (right) celebrates after scoring the first goal of Tuesday’s Class 3 sectional game with Hickman at the 179 Soccer Park. Looking on for the Kewpies are Adison Capell (left) and goalkeeper Emily Miller. Emma Kessinger

Entering Tuesday night, Tayler LePage had scored one goal through Jefferson City’s first 25 games.

Make it two in 26.

The sophomore midfielder put the Lady Jays on top with seven minutes remaining in the first half as Jefferson City posted a 2-0 victory against the Hickman Kewpies in Class 3 sectional action at the 179 Soccer Park.

“It’s really big to score in a game like this for the team,” LePage said. “Especially when you’re down to that much time left in the first half. You want to get one before halftime.”

Scoring first was something Jefferson City wanted to do against Hickman.

“You don’t want to play from behind in the playoffs,” Lady Jays coach Eddie Horn said.

Jefferson City was the more dangerous team offensively in the first half. The Lady Jays had four corner kicks and nearly the same amount of shots on goal before LePage got Jefferson City on the board.

On the play, Lady Jays senior Megan Martens dribbled down the left side before directing a pass to the back post.

“I am always told to run to the back post and the ball came to me,” LePage said.

LePage took care of the rest, knocking it past the Kewpie keeper.

“Taylor is so athletic around the goal and she did the right thing,” Horn said. “I was so happy for Tayler, I know she’s been a little frustrated by not scoring as much as she would like, maybe this one will be the spark for her the rest of the season.”

It was 1-0 at intermission. And Horn wasn’t about to let Jefferson City relax against Hickman, which had won 11 of its last 13 games in its run to the state playoffs.

“As coach Horn said at halftime, we were just one counter-attack from being tied, so we needed to get another one,” LePage said.

The Kewpies (15-10-2) started the second half with a renewed effort offensively, with five shots in the first 20 minutes.

“They really outplayed us in that stretch and that was a little disappointing,” Horn said. “They put a lot of pressure on us and we didn’t handle it all that well.”

Hickman’s best chance in the stretch came just two minutes into the half when Jefferson City goalkeeper Becca Sturgess had to make an extended dive to her right to knock one away.

“That shot was well-struck,” Horn said. “That should really be a big boost for her confidence, it was a play that we really needed and she really needed.”

Jefferson City survived the flurry unscathed and picked up an insurance goal with 12 minutes left.

Karina Esquival, a freshman who missed six weeks of the season due to an injury, got the score off an assist by Natalie Vance.

“That really sealed the deal,” Horn said.

Horn credited another freshman, Mackenzie Lochhead, with coming up big for the Lady Jays.

“Her work rate was great,” Horn said. “When she came in, she was fighting and really lifted our play.”

After Esquival’s score, Jefferson City just played to run time off the clock to advance to the quarterfinals for the second straight season.

The victory extended Jefferson City’s school records with its 21st win and 18th shutout.

“We advanced, that’s the biggest thing about this one,” Horn said. “Getting to play one more game is what it’s all about.”

Jefferson City (21-4-1, ranked No. 4) will play at Nixa (19-3-1, ranked No. 8) in the quarterfinals at noon Saturday. It is a rematch of last year’s quarterfinal, which Nixa won 3-1.

“We’ve been ready to play them since the end of last year’s game,” LePage said. “It should be a very good game.”

Tuesday night’s game was the 900th of Horn’s coaching career at Jefferson City. He has a career record of 490-368-42 in his time with the Jays and Lady Jays.

“Mostly what that means is I’m just getting older,” Horn said.

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