In what was essentially its first time playing outdoors this season, the Chi-Hi girls soccer team showed flashes of potential and came away with a season-opening victory.
The Cardinals edged Rice Lake 1-0 at Dorais Field on Thursday, with a goal by Andrea Cihasky in the 51st minute proving to be the difference. Chi-Hi controlled much of the possession and was in control for most of the game.
“We controlled the game, had possession. We played better than we did last year at this point,” Chi-Hi coach Justin Engum said.
Neither team was able to establish a firm foothold in the game early on. The two squads felt each other out, trading attacks but not getting anything to come to fruition.
Once Chi-Hi started controlling the possession, the Cardinals started getting looks at the goal. For the most part though, their shots sailed harmlessly wide of and over the goal.
Things heated up in the final ten minutes of the first half, as both teams had decent scoring chances but were turned away by the opposing goalkeeper.
Rice Lake was dangerous on its counterattack on a few occasions, but Chi-Hi’s defense did just enough to thwart the Warriors every time.
“They were very good at countering. They’d push five or six (players) forward and as soon as the balls were coming in, we were getting pressed,” Engum said. “We addressed it at halftime and made the girls aware of it a little bit better.”
The halftime adjustments made a quick impact. Six minutes into the second half, Cihasky knocked a header just past the reach of Rice Lake’s keeper for the game’s only goal. The assist went to Chloe Kuester.
“We just kept plugging,” Engum said. “We had 10 to 12 shots, and that’s not as aggressive as we want to be at around the net.”
The Cardinals kept control of the ball for most of the second half after that, spurred on by their advantage on the scoreboard. They had a few chances to extend the lead, but failed to capitalize on them.
Rice Lake saved its most dangerous attacks for last. The Warriors surged forward in the final five minutes of the game and threatened to equalize with a couple of opportunities.
“They were pushing at the end there, and we were a little tired,” Engum said.
The best chance came on a corner kick in the closing three minutes. The cross put the ball into a crowd of players in the box, and Chi-Hi barely managed to clear it away with a desperate kick after it bumped around near the goal line.
“We’ve never been able to practice corner kicks (this season, due to being indoors), so that was the first time she (the goalkeeper) had been in on a corner kick,” Engum said. “Rice Lake’s usually very good at set pieces...You’ve got to play tough because they’re used to doing it.”
The Cardinals were stout in defense for most of the game, though, and it paid off with their first shutout of the year.
Engum was encouraged by the attitude of the team throughout the contest. It was especially important for the younger players receiving some of their first varsity experience.
“With the (inexperience) aspects in mind, the other girls have to step up and be leaders. And you could hear them today, they were encouraging each other, no matter what,” he said.
Chi-Hi outshot the Warriors 17-3.
The Cardinals’ game against Menomonie on Friday night was postponed due to poor weather.