It was a night to work on fundamentals, get some needed rest for the starters and game action for the rest of the roster for the Jefferson City Lady Jays soccer team.
And during the middle of three games in three days, it was the perfect storm to accomplish those goals.
“The biggest thing is to just make sure we have enough in the tank, don’t get any new injuries, play as many people as we possibly can,” Jefferson City coach Scott Blake said after the Lady Jays’ 8-1 victory Wednesday night against the Sedalia Sacred Heart Lady Gremlins at Jefferson City High School. “Going deep in our roster was a focus for us tonight and we did that.”
For the plan to be successful, Jefferson City needed to jump out to an early lead.
The Lady Jays did just that by scoring less than 30 seconds in and five times in the opening 20 minutes to open up a substantial lead.
“The fact that we scored early and often allowed us to check some of those boxes,” Blake said.
Jefferson City got started right off the opening touch, as Izzy Schmidt received it and sent a long ball toward the box to Emily McMillian, who tapped it to Jada Murray for a shot that found the back of the net to the goalkeepers left.
Just more than four minutes later, it was McMillian’s turn, as she fired a shot from the right side of the box to the bottom-left corner for another goal.
McMillian grabbed her second goal with 26:27 left in the first half, collecting a pass from Izzy Schmidt before firing a shot off the left post and in to push the lead to 3-0.
Schmidt and McMillian once again connected for a goal three minutes later, but it was Schmidt on the receiving end of the assist this time before she fired a shot past the keeper and in.
The Lady Jays scored their final goal of the half with just under 21 minutes left, as Elicia Theroff received a through ball on the left side and was able to run around the goalie and tap the ball into the net from about a foot out.
“I am a little critical of how we played the first 20 minutes, that’s our starting group,” Blake said. “… Our ball possession the first 20 minutes was not very good. … As the game went on, we were able to kind of create a vision of what our possessions should look like.”
Jefferson City subbed out its starters following the goal and gave the rest of the first half to mostly the JV squad.
This also allowed Blake and his coaching staff time to go over exactly what they wanted from their starting group.
“For us, getting on the ball and having meaningful possession was really, really important,” Blake said. “I didn’t think we had that in the first half of the first half. Our subs, which was essentially our JV group, they did probably a better job.”
Following halftime, Blake went back to his starting 11 for the first 12 minutes of the second half with some tweaks.
The Lady Jays moved positions around to allow scoring opportunities for players that rarely get them.
And senior defender Grace Spalding took advantage, collecting a pass from McMillian and finding the back of the net for her first-career goal.
“Moving some players around as the game went on became a focus,” Blake said. “Getting some players their moment, especially the seniors. We got Grace Spalding, who has been awesome but never scored a goal, we were able to slide her forward and get one tonight.”
Ella Kuse added another goal for the Lady Jays with 26:02 left off a cross from Mia Allen to make the score 8-0, but the Lady Gremlins got on the board just under the 13-minute mark on a goal by Shea Smith.
Jefferson City added its final goal with 8:21 left when Hannah Jerozal, who was celebrating her birthday, found the back of the net.
Brooke Epple made four saves, all in the second half, in goal for Sacred Heart (0-9).
The Lady Jays (6-5-1) is scheduled to play today at Hannibal (8-6).