(COTTLEVILLE, MO) Just two weeks ago, the St. Louis Lions women’s outdoor soccer club recorded their most significant result of their inaugural campaign in a scoreless road draw against Bellevllle, Illinois-based Fire & Ice FC.
For those in the know, the fledgling franchise had just hung cleat-to-cleat with the defending National Champions of the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL) and grounded their 13 game win-streak.
Fast forward to Friday evening’s home finale at Tony Glavin Soccer Complex that featured the re-match with precious points and positioning within the WPSL Heartland Conference hanging in the balance.
Even with a change in venue, a similar outcome ensued with a 1-1 draw.
The result extended the Lions’ point-streak to six games, an overall 2-1-4 record for 10 points and a lock of third place in the five-team Heartland hierarchy.
“It’s a great rivalry and we were right there,” assessed Lions’ midfielder Cristina Rodriguez afterwards. “There’s a lot of skill on both sides and it’s always good to come out and try to beat the top team.”
“It’s a lot of local players and nobody wants to give in to anything,” added Head Coach Geoff Lorimier of the tale of two teams. “We had been talking about it all week and I’m sure that they had been, too.”
From the get-go, both teams’ collection of midfielders set the tone. For the Lions, Rodriguez, alongside Maddie Pokorny, Mackenzie Rief, Courtney Reimer and Allison Verville, put pressure on the pitch while Forward Alex Johnson assisted.
Conversely, Fire & Ice countered with their lethal combo of midfielders Kailey Utley, Sarah Gorham, Hannah Kimsey and Mara Keomanivane alongside forwards Sarah Luebbert, Tara Sullivan and Haylee Estridge.
A boost of confidence was collected by the Lions at the twenty–minute mark as Rodriguez claimed her fourth goal of the season that gave St. Louis a 1-0 edge.
“It felt so good,” said the midfielder of the broken goose egg. “It got our energy up. Our chemistry is so much better. Playing, knowing and trusting each other.”
“Just to even score against them was important,” added Lorimier. “You know, you get that first one and try to build on things, but they just keep coming at you.”
Both teams’ “back four” kept the stalemate intact for the remainder of the half. The Lions’ defensive collective of Madison Schmied, Bella Palazzolo, Alli Klug and Brittany Steiger helped preserve the 1-1 result at intermission.
In the second half, Fire & Ice began to consistently put pressure on their side of the pitch and started racking up quality breakaway scoring chances on Lions’ starting goalie Olivia Silverman.
Her sliding save on Utley’s attempt from ten-feet out three minutes in foreshadowed a half that saw Fire & Ice out shoot the Lions on net, 8-2.
In the heat of battle, Silverman proved that her uniform might have contained asbestos as she never let one pass by for the remainder of the match. Extremely impressive were saves on point-blank shots by Keomanivane at the 63rd minute, Leubbert at the 77th minute and Alessi with seven minutes left.
“I can’t say enough about Olivia,” said Lorimier of the keeper’s stellar play. “She’s amazing and she has been like that for us all year.”
As the scoreboard still read 1-1 following the 90-minute checkpoint, St. Louis attempted one last stab about a minute into stoppage time and Pokorny and Johnson’s effort was thwarted by Fire & Ice goalie Kelsey Dossey with a save from 15-feet out.
After three minutes of additional nail-biting play, the final whistle blew and the match concluded with a 1-1 draw. St. Louis was able to achieve another high point with depth that was comparable with the defending WPSL National Champion.
“It’s tough for me because I have to pick and choose who to put in but I feel comfortable with anybody I put in,” confided Lorimier afterwards in his starting eleven. “You want them all to be involved if you can. It is a tribute to all of them for coming in and training.”
With their solo point gained, Fire & Ice secured their top spot of the Heartland Conference (4-0-2, 14 points.)
The Lions now look to finish their season with upward trajectory, and a continued push of points, in a Sunday afternoon road contest with Des Moines Menace WPSL (1-3-1, 4 points.) St. Louis topped the Menace at home, 2-0, on June 10.
“I want the three points,” said a smiling Rodriguez. “I think we all do and want to end the season on a good note.”
For more information on St. Louis Lions WPSL, go to their official website.