You can’t keep a good scorer down.
Windsor Tournament MVP Bethany Coons scored twice in the second half (59th and 77th minutes) to seal Union’s 3-1 championship match win over the Washington Lady Jays Thursday in Imperial.
“This used to be the Pacific Tournament,” Union Head Coach Matt Fennessey said. “We’ve been flirting with the championship game or getting to the championship game for a number of years now. It’s nice to get here and get the win.”
Washington Head Coach Chris Lanemann lauded his players.
“I thought my girls played with a lot of heart and played well. We had just played 100 minutes the night before and beat Seckman in the second round of penalty kicks,” Lanemann said. “I think we were physically and mentally drained. The fatigue set in the second half, however my girls continued to fight. Union is a good team and we just ran out of gas in the second half.”
Union improved to 6-0 on the season with the win. The Lady ’Cats host Rolla Friday in the rescheduled home opener.
Washington dropped to 6-1-1 with the defeat. The Lady Jays return to action Monday with the Town Derby at Borgia. Junior varsity action begins at 5 p.m.
Both teams were represented on the all-tournament team. Union had three players selected with Bethany Coons receiving the MVP award.
“If it wasn’t for my teammates, this wouldn’t be anything,” Coons said.
Her older sister, senior Alyssa Coons, also was honored as was senior defender Abbie Brack.
Washington had two selections with junior Halee Nurnberger and senior Taylor Andrews being selected for the team.
“They’re a really great team,” Bethany Coons said. “This is great competition. We’re just glad we could beat them.”
With two of the highest scoring teams in the St. Louis area on the field, one almost expected the scoreboard to be burned out with all of the tallies.
But, for the first half, the defenses dominated.
“We had a game plan we wanted to go with,” Fennessey said. “We just didn’t do what we were supposed to do and stick with our game plan. I think we got a little frustrated. Washington is the best team we’ve played all year and we weren’t used to that pressure. They cracked a little bit.”
Washington had the better of the play, using controlled short passes and quick runs into space to maintain pressure on the Union defense.
“I thought we had several really good chances to score and couldn’t quite get the shot we needed,” Lanemann said. “I am very proud of the way the girls played over the course of the entire tournament.”
However, Union had the most dangerous chances.
“I felt we had the better of the chances, but they controlled the majority of the ball possession for sure,” Fennessey said.
Bethany Coons put the ball into the back of the net in the 29th minute, but the play had been whistled offsides.
In the 34th minute, Beth Coons ripped a long shot off the crossbar. Washington goalkeeper Mary McGilvray pounced on the rebound before anyone else could get there.
“I thought Mary played extremely well in the game making several saves that kept the game close,” Lanemann said.
That started an offensive flurry which foreshadowed the second half.
Washington’s Brianna Pagan forced Union netminder Brianna Lakebrink to make a save. Soon after, Bethany Coons beat two defenders in the left corner, but put her shot wide of the far post.
So, while the first half had been scoreless, the potential for offensive action in the second half was shown.
“In the second half, we started doing a better job utilizing the corners and that really opened up the space in the middle of the field,” Fennessey said. “That gave us our chances.”
And Union came out by working the ball into the Washington end for its most sustained pressure to that point.
In the 53rd minute, Kaylyn Bigley nearly scored on a restart from near the left sideline. The ball hopped around before it was cleared.
However, Bigley played a role in Union’s icebreaker goal in the 54th minute. She took a corner kick and freshman Natalie Helling headed it into the net to put Union on top, 1-0.
“That was a great ball in by Kaylyn Bigley on the cross,” Fennessey said. “Kaila AuBuchon went down with an ankle injury last night. Natalie came in tonight and played 60-65 minutes of the game and got us rolling with that first goal. That goal was a huge emotional lift for us.”
The Lady ’Cats sustained the pressure and added a second tally in the 58th minute. Bethany Coons moved into the left corner, beat the defense and then shot the ball past McGilvray to make it 2-0. Alyssa Coons was awarded the assist.
“It pretty much was Alyssa’s goal,” Bethany Coons said. “We just tend to steal each other’s goals a lot.”
Fennessey said having the two-goal advantage was huge.
“You hate to say you can relax, but it’s a lot better than a one-goal lead,” Fennessey said.
As the game moved much closer to full time, Washington came alive.
In the 72nd minute, Nurnberger ripped a shot to the right side of the goal. Lakebrink was able to get over, make a lunging save and knock the ball around the post.
“That was the best save she’s made this year,” Fennessey said. “I was jumping up and down for her because she’s working hard to do a fantastic job. To come up with a big save at that point was huge.”
That proved to be huge as Washington got onto the scoreboard less than a minute later. Martha Noelker ripped a hard shot from the right side into the goal. Her 73rd minute tally was assisted by Pagan.
“They come right back and put one into the net,” Fennessey said. “Washington did a great job of not giving up and continuing to push.”
Both teams pressured for additional markers, earning corner kicks which were cleared.
But Union sealed the game with a 77th minute goal by Bethany Coons.
She was in the right place at the right time after Alyssa Coons had the initial chance, but went down with the defender. All Bethany Coons had to do was knock the ball into the open net.
“I’ve learned a lot from my select team and my sister helps out a lot by passing me the ball,” Bethany Coons said.
That proved to be a tremendous pressure breaker for Union, which once again went up by two goals. It didn’t keep Washington from working to cut into that gap though.
Washington’s final strong chance came in the 79th minute when the Lady Jays earned a corner kick. However, the shot went through the football uprights and Union took a goal kick.
“We’ve got to just keep working hard and practicing hard,” Bethany Coons said. “If we do that, we’ll keep going through.”
The finish should make things interesting for the rematch, scheduled for Union High School May 1. Junior varsity action begins at 5 p.m. that night.