A new chapter of the East Central College sports history was started Sunday afternoon.

The school’s first-ever women’s soccer team took to the field in an exhibition match against Mineral Area College.

Mineral Area outscored the Falcons, 3-1.

The match was part of a women’s and men’s doubleheader between the two schools. ECC won the men’s game, 4-3.

“It was great to see our women’s team play a game on ECC’s campus,” East Central Head Coach Martin Clayes said. “I didn’t know what to expect before the game as we have been training mostly small sided but the team adapted quickly to 11 v 11 and it was a very competitive match.”

In a normal season, the teams would have started in August. However, as everyone knows, 2020 has been anything but normal.

Consequently, this is an exhibition season for all NJCAA sports as they now will play in the spring of 2021.

The women’s game featured two entirely new teams. 

“Credit to both teams, completely new programs for getting out there and competing hard for 60 minutes,” Clayes said. “Considering many haven’t played in a long time due to COVID-19 and most players had never played a college match, it was a great start and something to build upon going into our first official season in the spring.”

There’s still work to be done. The Falcons still need a starting goalkeeper and more depth. 

Mineral Area scored the first three goals before East Central got onto the board.

Sullivan graduate Sierra Pitman advanced on the right side late in the match and hammered the ball while being closely covered.

Abby Layton (Pacific) was making a run down the middle, but went down after a collision with a defender.

The ball went through to the far left, where Jordan Owens (Northwest) was making a run to the far post. She stepped into the shot and scored the first goal in program history.

Owens is a double-rostered player as she also is on the East Central softball squad.

Men’s Game

East Central was able to hold off Mineral Area College’s first men’s soccer team, 4-3.

The Falcons grabbed the lead in the 16th minute on a goal by sophomore Blake Little (Belleville, Ill., East).

“The team started a little slow but found their rhythm after about 20 minutes or so, which is not surprising given the level of fatigue,” Clayes said. 

Mineral Area tied it up just 14 seconds into the second half, but that lasted a short time before Tanner Graef (St. Francis Borgia Regional) made a diving header to put the Falcons back on top, 2-1.

James Baxter (St. Andrews, Leven, Scotland) netted to give the Falcons a 3-1 advantage.

Mineral Area fought back, converting a penalty kick with 20:29 to play.

Miguel Gonzalez (Colegio Arzobispal, Madrid, Spain) put a rebound into the goal to make it 4-2.

The Falcons needed that cushion. Mineral Area scored again with 10:50 to play and goalkeeper Pierocarlo Previte (Nazaset, Puerto Ordaz, Venezuela) made some saves in the closing minutes to preserve the victory.

Bailey Hoehne (Pacific) was in goal during the first half and did not allow any goals.

“There certainly were some good moments and nice goals, but we will need to be much more consistent both offensively and defensively to compete for top four in the MCCAC come the season,” Clayes said.  

Clayes feels Mineral Area has taken good steps toward fielding a competitive men’s program.

“Lots of credit to Mineral Area and their coaching staff,” Clayes said. “They have a brand new program and already competitive.” 

Clayes said the Falcons also played in a scrimmage Friday meant to simulate the wear and tear of play during the season.

“Our men’s team played a scrimmage on Friday, so it was a great challenge for them to see what the official season will look like playing games back to back like that,” Clayes said. 

The school’s next scrimmages will be in volleyball. Fans will not be allowed at the scrimmages Friday, Oct. 23, against Spoon River, or Saturday, Oct. 24, against John Wood and Mineral Area College.