By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript
OKLAHOMA CITY — The Norman North girls walked into Bishop McGuinness’ Clement E. Pribil Stadium looking to nail down their first district championship since 2006. Too bad the Timberwolves played like they already had it won.
A bad idea against any team, it’s even more risky away from home against a good team and North paid for it with a 1-0 loss.
It was the third-ranked T-Wolves (10-2-1, 5-1 District 6A-2) first loss against state-wide competition and the goal that made it possible was also the first allowed within Oklahoma’s borders. Not that it made anybody feel any better.
“I thought we were lazy,” North coach Don Rother said. “We didn’t have any intensity.”
That was clear when Nicole Voss scored the game’s only goal 4:47 after the kick.
North turned the ball over a few yards on the McGuinness side of midfield, from which the Irish put about four passes together, any one of which might have been challenged, deflected or picked off by a more aggressive defense.
Instead, McGuinness’ Ryan Maroney had enough space to play the ball from the middle of the field, above the box, to the left side where Voss was closing on a run toward the goal. North keeper Kali Newman didn’t give Voss much of an angle but the Irish forward tucked it past her nonetheless.
Still, the goal wasn’t the T-Wolves biggest problem. Their biggest problem was the next 75 minutes, when the Irish continued to carry most of the action.
In addition to scoring the only goal, the Irish were closer to making it 2-0 or 3-0 than North was to tying it.
Newman stopped one chance diving backward, almost into the goalpost, to stop a ball from rolling into the net. With 10 minutes remaining, Voss found herself all alone with Newman, about 15 yards of daylight between them, only to pop it over the crossbar.
The Irish (7-2, 4-2) outshot the T-Wolves 8-3, owned the possession battle and were the more aggressively physical of the two teams, committing 13 fouls to North’s eight.
One of those fouls, when Callie Kumler grabbed Bri Kuestersteffen’s jersey, gave North a free kick inches above the Irish penalty box. The T-Wolves, who wanted a penalty kick, got nothing when Lexi Carroll drilled the ball into the Irish wall.
“I think Bishop McGuinness worked really, really hard and brought a lot of pressure,” said Kuestersteffen, who began the game defending but finished it moved forward into an attack that struggled to materialize. “I don’t think we played quickly enough tonight. Everything was two, three, four touches. We need to get back to the two-touch, one-touch passing that we normally do.”
Kuestersteffen, who thought her team entered the game “lackadaisical” believes a wake-up call should do the T-Wolves some good.
“We’ve been kind of going through the motions the last couple of weeks and this is definitely going to set our goals straight,” she said, “and remind us that we have to work super hard to achieve our goals.”
A home-pitch victory over Putnam City on Tuesday still gives North its first district title in eight seasons, but it will take a renewed focus to get the T-Wolves where they ultimately want to go.
“Hopefully, it’s a good learning experience,” Rother said. “If we come out and play like that in the playoffs, we’re not going to go as far as we’re supposed to.”
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