Jackson girls soccer team rides second-half surge past Poplar Bluff

Friday, April 22, 2011
Jackson's Erin Eakens, left, heads a shot toward the Poplar Bluff goal during the first half Thursday in Jackson. (Fred Lynch)

The Jackson Indians turned it up a notch in the second half.

The Poplar Bluff Mules had no answer.

Jackson (11-1) turned a 2-1 halftime lead into a 5-1 home victory over the Mules (10-5) in girls soccer action Thursday.

The Indians used a combination of speed and conditioning to wear down the Mules and net three second-half goals that buried Poplar Bluff.

"I've been preaching patience to them," Jackson co-coach Justin McMullen said. "We almost feel like when we come out we have to score six goals right off the bat, and that's not the case in any game. So we were just trying to make sure that we strung passes together a little bit and looked for each other. And we made some adjustments at halftime to what they were doing defensively, so I think that opened some things up. And we were moving off the ball much better."

Jackson's Alex Sotak fires a shot past Poplar Bluff goalkeeper Alexa Atkinson for the first goal of the game Thursday, April 21, 2011 in Jackson. (Fred Lynch)

Jackson's Erin Eakens stretched the Indians' first-half lead to 3-1 when she buried a shot from the left side seven minutes into the second half.

Mollie Crader beat her defender to the end line, drew the goalie out and dumped off a perfect pass to Kasey Crowden, who finished the goal in an empty net to put the game out of reach five minutes later.

"Jackson's got some great players," Poplar Bluff coach Derek Reasons said. "They've got a good team this year. They were definitely wearing down our defense. And you could see the speed wise, in regards to their forwards to our defenders, and I thought that was the biggest difference."

Added McMullen: "We have some very good speed all the way around. We were trying to move some people around to free them up throughout the midfield and up top. We just played them last week so we wanted to give them a couple different looks, and I think we did a pretty good job of coming out of the midfield."

That wasn't the case in the first half, despite leading 2-1. The Indians struggled to break through the Mules' defense on multiple occasions.

Jackson's Erin Eakens, left, watches her shot get past Poplar Bluff defender Kaysie Tisdale and goalkeeper Alexa Atkinson during the second half Thursday. (Fred Lynch)

"It looked like they were having some trouble putting a couple things together offensively," Reasons said about the first half. "Possession was totally in Jackson's favor. We were having a little bit of trouble picking up players in our backfield, and I thought that was the difference."

The Indians wasted little time getting on the scoreboard but failed to maintain that strong play throughout the opening half.

Alex Sotak tapped a cross past the Mules' keeper less than two minutes into the game.

"It was really exciting, especially since this is our first home game of the year," Sotak said. "I was just really excited to be back on the home field and scoring that goal really just made it that much better."

Added Reasons: "A quick, early goal like that, it stings. It can be disheartening. Whenever you get down early like that, your team really gets tested mentally and whether or not they're going to be able to bounce back. I thought not just the first half, but the whole game we didn't quit, so I was pleased with that."

Poplar Bluff scored on a corner kick when a Jackson player hit it into her own net nine minutes into the game.

"We had a couple of opportunities," Reasons said. "We didn't get much out of them. That one came off a corner. We've been pressing the issue on corners and being aggressive on them. I know it was an own goal, but I liked how we did bring the numbers inside on corners and crosses especially."

Sotak nearly put the Indians back on top five minutes later but was stopped on a breakaway.

She converted her next opportunity.

Sotak burst past a defender and shook off a jersey grab before burying a shot to give the Indians a 2-1 lead.

"Each game we're trying to change some things up," McMullen said. "We don't want to be predictable. Today was one of those times we were trying to change some things up from what we did last night and it just took us a little bit to get settled in. It was one of those things where once we start feeling like we're settled in, it opened things up."

The second Sotak goal was all the Indians managed in the first half against a stingy Poplar Bluff defense.

"Their big thing was they were really guarding our forwards," Sotak said. "The last game we played them our forwards were causing them a little bit of trouble. So they did well on marking them up and then physicality -- they were physical. They were winning balls and that helped them stay in the game."

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