THE WOODLANDS — College Park scored twice early and held on for a 2-1 win over Montgomery on Saturday morning as both teams closed out play in the Lady Highlander Invitational.
The Cavaliers (2-1-1) worked with unconventional circumstances during the tournament’s Friday and Saturday matches after COVID-19 protocols forced head coach Meredith Cook to leave the sideline.
During Friday’s game at Gosling Sports Complex against Clear Springs, a 1-0 win, Cook was on FaceTime watching. On Saturday, the game’s field location allowed the coach to yell instructions and encouragement from her vehicle, which was parked on a nearby road.
Cross country and track coach William Fairhurst filled in on the sideline, as the Cavs’ subvarsity programs were elsewhere in action.
“I’m really lucky that (Fairhurst) was willing to help out and be awesome for me,” Cook said in a phone interview following Saturday’s game.
Cook is pleased with the way her team has started 2021, even if she’s had to watch from a safe distance lately.
“I feel like we’ve been doing an amazing job on defense and moving the ball up and down the field,” she said. “I’m starting to see some of the goals fall and finishing on that back side. We had quite a few shots today and I would’ve liked to see a couple more go in. The chemistry has come so far in the four games we’ve gotten to play, so I have no complaints.”
Montgomery (0-3-1) finished play in the tournament with three losses, but coach Brandi Wilkinson was happy with her team’s ability to compete with strong opponents.
“We’re hanging in there,” she said. “(Klein) Oak was a little bit of a struggle the first day, but we only lost 2-1 to Clear Springs and College Park. We’re finding scoring opportunities and are able to shut them down to where they’re not racking up a lot of goals. We’re staying competitive.”
In Saturday’s game, all of the goals came in the first 18 minutes.
Mia Summers made it 1-0 College Park in the 9th minute with a hard shot that trickled in after the keeper got a piece of it.
In the 12th minute, Montgomery defender Renee LeVasseur cleared a goal off the backline to keep the score at 1-0. A minute later, it grew to 2-0 with a penalty kick from Sara Engels.
An impressive individual effort got the Lady Bears on the board in the 18th minute. Ashlee Stoltje got the ball toward the top of the offensive third, then dribbled her way through defenders before finishing.
“She dribbled through three people and still scored on the goalie, so essentially went through four people to get that goal,” Wilkinson said of the effort. “She just came back, so she was eager and ready to go today. I think she’s going to be a key player this year, we’ve just got to find a way to get her the ball.”
Summers had a couple scoring chances late in the half, including a header on net from a cross, but the score stood at halftime.
College Park had the majority of chances and possession in the second half, but Montgomery had some brief success with counter attacks. Neither team found the back of the net.
“I liked the way we kept fighting,” Wilkinson said. “Second half was definitely stronger than first half. We’re still struggling to find our game and get our passing game down. Our breakdown was a little bit in the middle of the field and we weren’t able to pick them up the way we needed to, but we’re getting there. We’re playing tough competition and we’re still competing.”
Montgomery’s chances were limited thanks in part to an experienced College Park back line, led by senior Faith Autery. Cook hopes the unit will continue to be a strength.
“I love the way they work together and support each other,” she said. “We returned most of our starting line, but our backline just reads each other so well. We have some depth, so we have the ability to move some people in and out. It’s an extremely hard-working group and if they continue to improve every game like we are now, it’s going to be really great by the time we get to district.”
College Park hosts Brazoswood at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday. Montgomery next plays in the I-10 Shootout, which begins Thursday.