The Jefferson City Lady Jays changed their playing style this season.
The new style is catching on.
"We're getting more comfortable playing, I know that sounds like a cliche, but we are," Lady Jays coach Eddie Horn said Tuesday night after Jefferson City blanked the Sedalia Smith-Cotton Lady Tigers 4-0 at the 179 Soccer Park. "We're more patient, we're doing a better job of passing the ball, we look a lot better."
The Jefferson City defense figured to be tested by Smith-Cotton, which had been shut out just once this season. But the Lady Jays limited the Lady Tigers to only two shots, just one on goal, in picking up their 12th shutout of the season.
"We knew they were a lot better, they were scoring on everybody," Horn said. "After giving up two goals (in a 4-2 win Monday night at Camdenton), we wanted to get back on track defensively."
A position change led to Jefferson City's first goal.
Courtney Kolb, who has signed as a defensive player with Missouri State, started at forward Tuesday night. The move paid off eight minutes into the contest when the senior lined a shot into the top of the net.
"That kind of set the tone for us for the rest of the night," Horn said.
Kolb went back to the defensive end after the score, but Horn said finding multiple goal scorers is important.
"Our midfielders are leading the team in scoring and that's not we're looking for," Horn said. "To be dangerous at a high level, we're going to need to get a goal from some other people.
"I feel confident we're looking at the right 18 girls right now, I feel confident in our starters. Now it's a matter of finding the starters to get the goal."
Natalie Vance made it 2-0 midway through the half off an assist by Tayler LePage. Eden Hoogveld stretched it to 3-0 with about 11 minutes left in the half, assisted by Courtney Betts.
The Lady Jays' final goal came nine minutes into the second half on a restart. Kaley Ruff shaped a direct kick into the opposite corner for the score.
"She's a great ballstriker," Horn said. "Those are moments that can break a game wide open."
Jefferson City finished with a 12-2 edge in shots, including an 8-1 advantage in those on net.
Becca Sturgess got the shutout in net for the Lady Jays (14-1-1, ranked No. 5 in Class 3), who will face St. Charles (Ill.) North in the opening round of the Tournament of Champions on Friday in Burlington, Iowa.
Jefferson City will be playing in the "A" division at the tournament, which features a handful of nationally ranked teams.
"We're in the big-girl group," Horn said. "We're going to have a chance to learn about ourselves, whether we win or we lose and have a little adversity. We're two-thirds of the way through the season, this weekend will give us a chance to see what we need to get better at if we want to be dangerous in the playoffs."
In Tuesday night's junior-varsity game, Jefferson City blanked Smith-Cotton 4-0. April Krum and Gabi McGinty scored two goals each, while Megan Foster picked up the shutout in goal for the Lady Jays (10-2-1).