A 3-0 victory would usually be given high marks, but that apparently wasn’t for Newton girls soccer coach Sackda Viravong Thursday night.
The Cardinals had goals from junior Amber Karsten, senior Kaylie Rhoads and sophomore Anna Barr to cruise past Ballard of Huxley in their season-opening game, but their coach believes there is always room for improvement.
“It’s good to start with a W,” Viravong said. “Sometimes we hurt ourselves with turnovers, but we’re also just not in shape yet. Like I told the girls, if I had to grade it, it would be a B-minus.”
Newton controlled the ball for nearly the entire game, especially in the opening minutes. Thanks to pressure from Karsten and senior Stevi Eggers, the Cards had a plethora of shots on goal, including two missed open-netters.
However, Karsten eventually put the game’s first tally on the board at the 20:44 mark when she sliced up the middle of the field and sent a shot past the Bombers’ keeper.
“Amber got a lot of shots tonight, with most of them on breakaway,” Viravong said. “She has speed and can beat a lot of people back there.”
The Cardinals kept the ball almost exclusively on the Ballard side of the field for the rest of the half thanks to their offensive pressure and a strong effort by the defenders and goalkeeper Emily Forysth.
With the exception of a few corner kicks, Newton didn’t manage much before the end of the half. Ballard had perhaps its biggest push with a free kick near the goal with less than 10 seconds left on the clock, but Forsyth managed the save and kept a goose egg on the scoreboard.
Eggers and Karsten continued their assault on the Ballard goal in the second half, but it was Rhoads that came up with the next goal at the 27:44 mark. Rhoads gathered a rebound off a Newton corner kick and fired the ball off the leg of a Ballard defender to give the Cards a 2-0 lead and strong sense of security for the remainder of the game.
“That was just a pure instinct shot,” Viravong said of Rhoads’ goal. “It deflected off the defender, and sometimes the soccer gods are on your side. That’s just the way it is.”
The game’s final minutes continued much like the rest of the game as the Cards piled up more shots on goal, including a deep free kick from sophomore Rylie Udelhoven that almost snuck past the Ballard keeper. Barr put a bow on the victory with 9:29 to go when she found some space up the left sideline and delivered the ball to the back right corner of the net.
“I did a last-moment switch and moved her to the center, and then boom,” Viravong said. “Anna is fast, even sometimes too fast for the soccer ball, but she just put it in the corner.”
If this win was a B-minus, it will certainly be interesting to see what a B has in store. The Cardinals will search for a better grade this weekend when they take on Indianola and Prairie City-Monroe in a tournament at Southeast Polk High School. Those games are scheduled for 4:30 and 6 p.m., respectively, and should help the team in its continued search for exactly who will play what positions.
“We played almost everyone tonight, and I want to find the combinations of where I can fit people and where they can be efficient,” Viravong said. “Obviously, we have a lot to improve, like being patient with the ball. At some point, they’ll have to click.”