Round 1 goes to Helias.
In a preview of the potential Class 2 District 10 title game between top-seeded Rolla and second-seeded Helias, the Lady Crusaders made a statement with a 3-0 victory Tuesday night at the 179 Soccer Park.
While the emphatic win appears to make Helias the team to beat when district play starts Tuesday, head coach Brad Dempsey isn't buying into that notion.
"I don't think so," he said. "I feel like (Rolla coach Mike Howard) knows they can't beat us twice. He's playing for that one game. There's been teams all season that have got us in that one game, where if we played them best-of-three, they'd get one and we'd get two.
"When we were shaking hands, he said, "Best team I've seen all season,' which I probably agree with. He said, "We have no chance next week.' That's kind of a head game. I said (to the girls), "Don't believe it. We're going to have the cards stacked against us when we go down there.'"
That may be so, considering Rolla hosts the district tournament. But Tuesday night, it was all Helias on its home field.
The Lady Crusaders held a 19-5 advantage in shots, including a 10-1 edge in shots on goal. The possession was just as lopsided, which has become the norm lately for Helias.
A little sluggish at first due to trying out a new formation, Helias got on the board nearly 15 minutes into the game on a free kick. From the left sideline, Taylor Hagenhoff swung a cross toward the far post. Emma Wyrick was on the receiving end, as the freshman headed the ball into the netting on the left corner.
"The goal early by Emma Wyrick was a great goal," Dempsey said. "Great ball by Taylor, she always puts it in the right spot.
"We needed that. We didn't play our style of soccer, we were kicking it around. We were toying with a different formation, a 3-5-2. We hadn't had a chance to practice it much because of the weather and field conditions. It wasn't working."
A switch back to the more conventional 4-4-2 in the second half opened the floodgates.
"We feel like it opened things up for us," Dempsey said. "The girls were more comfortable and we got the win. I thought we played a great second half."
After a first half that saw Helias hold a 10-4 edge in shots and a 5-1 advantage in shots on goal, the Lady Crusaders used advantages of 9-1 and 5-0, respectively, in the final 40 minutes.
Becky Roberts added an insurance goal for Helias just eight minutes into the second half. After a nice give-and-go with Jordan Poire outside of the box, Roberts pulled off a couple slick moves to maneuver around a pair of Rolla defenders before going far post on a rocket into the lower left-hand corner of the goal.
"She's a phenomenal player," Dempsey said of Roberts.
Poire could have made it 3-0 just four minutes later after receiving a through-ball in the box. She was pulled down with a hard tackle, and much to Dempsey's astonishment, no foul was called.
The no-call prompted a "Sir, are you kidding me?" from the Helias first-year head man.
"How'd you like that foul there?" Dempsey said. "Never fails."
Poire eventually did make it 3-0 with 22 minutes left in the game. After a fair bit of pressure from Helias, Haley Bax sent in a low cross that somehow rolled across the face of goal before Poire was there to blast it in.
"Jordan played her best half of the season in the second half," Dempsey said.
Liz Czarnecki and Lydia Linsenbardt combined for the shutout in goal. The latter entered the game with about 12 minutes remaining.
Helias (12-7) hosts Hickman tonight. The JV game starts at 5 p.m. with the varsity contest slated to start around 6:45 p.m.
Helias won the JV game 10-0 to improve to 13-2-1 on the season.
Julie Harris scored a hat trick to lead the way. Morgan Rundle, Taryne Barton, Emily Bexten, Katey Hunt, Madeline Casten, Abby Farrow and Ashley Dowden scored for the Lady Crusaders. Sydnee Kliethermes and Maggie Kehoe both had two assists and Rundle, Lauren Brune, Mary Beth Taylor and Farrow all added one.
Helias honored its five seniors - Czarnecki, Bax, Hagenhoff, Whitley Malzner and Kelsie Strope - in a pregame ceremony for Senior Night.
"Being able to get my seniors on the field and playing in a game like that, it feels really good," Dempsey said.
"They're a great group of girls. They're going to be successful. They bring so much character to this team and we're sad to see them go. We're glad to have them tonight and for the rest of the season."