by PEDRO VELAZCO KOKOMO TRIBUNE
---- — Kokomo’s girls soccer team made its first threatening move in the opening minute at Northwestern Thursday. While a goal didn’t materialize, the Wildkats were well on their way to dominating the flow and an eventual 3-0 victory over their Howard County rivals.
Kokomo got a breakthrough in the seventh minute and kept Wildkat goalie Cathy Skaggs bored for the majority of the game. The Wildkat goalie didn’t even touch the ball for the first 32 minutes of the game, by which time Allison Psychogios had already given the Kats some breathing room. The Kokomo midfielder scored on a looping curler that sneaked in just under the crossbar after Taylor Coram did well to control a tough ball in the box and drop a pass back to an open Psychogios.
“We weren’t pleased with the start, but we felt like our defense was in it start to finish,” Kokomo coach Kevin Duggins said.
Skaggs finished with three saves but no worrisome stops as the Wildkat defensive line of Michaela Wade, Aubrey Whiteman, Anh Pham and Jania Eddington, with help from midfield, kept the Purple Tigers in check. What remained was for the attacking Kats to show the same command.
“We reminded them at halftime that we just gave Northwestern a lot of confidence having a 1-0 half when they weren’t pressuring our goal,” Duggins said. “We really focused on what we were allowing the other team to do, and we focused on trying to stop that from happening, to keep our game in focus.”
The change came in the second half. Kokomo’s Holly Stewart got the ball in attacking position in midfield, looked up and sent a slicing ball to Taylor Coram, cutting in from the left side. Coram’s composed finish put the Kats up 2-0 in the 46th minute. Eight minutes later, Stewart headed a Coram corner kick cleanly but not on frame, Cheyenne Eltringham corralled the loose ball and scored inside the six-yard box for the game’s final netter.
“We had a rough start,” Duggins said. “I was happy with how I started seeing us put more of the mental aspect into it the second half to correct those things.
“In the first half, we kept beating the player and then sending [a pass] when we had 30 yards open in front of us. We also kept turning ... on the ball to send it and it’d almost always be to a white [Northwestern jersey] because Northwestern’s doing a great job of packing in their defense and bodying up on our top two forwards. So we were kind of frustrated that we weren’t threading that ball to our players, instead we were sending that ball to space and expecting someone to get it.”
Northwestern was glad to frustrate the Wildkats as many times as it was able to. Northwestern goalie Chloe Redman had five stops.
“I thought our goalie did well, she handled her space well,” Northwestern coach Samantha Elkins said. “The defense was strong, which I always appreciate. A good game — that was nice to see. I think both teams played a good game.”
On the other side, it was difficult for the Tigers to create scoring opportunities.
“Kokomo did well manning up on the ball and getting to the ball,” Elkins said. “Our passing game just struggled in that environment, but it was a good experience because I think they can see from that game the importance of handling your own space and still keeping your head on your shoulders.”
The Tigers fell to 1-2 on the season, Kokomo improved to 2-1.