Van Horn girls soccer coach Matt Tracy liked the character he saw from the Falcons during their 3-0 loss Thursday night at Oak Grove.

Specifically, Tracy liked the character they showed during the final 69 minutes.

The host Panthers took the lead in the ninth minute, when sophomore Mary Delgado poked in a short shot. At times, when Van Horn has yielded a quick goal like that, the Falcons have become “deflated” emotionally, according to Tracy. But Thursday wasn’t one of those times.

“I felt like we kept playing hard through and through,” Tracy said. “At halftime, I was thinking, ‘We still have a shot here.’ I wanted to tweak some things. But I was happy with their game…. (Their) mentality, this late in the season, is strong – where it should be.”

No doubt, Tracy said that the Falcons (7-8) still had a chance to win the non-conference meeting at halftime because it was a one-goal game. Oak Grove got its insurance goals around midway through the second half. The first came in the 59th minute, when sophomore Katie Jennings booted in a free kick.

“Surprisingly, actually, set pieces have been a big part of our game,” said Panthers coach Michael Brown, who’ll soon succeed Andrew Fletcher in helming Fort Osage’s soccer program. “It’s kind of a change from what we’ve seen in the past. We’ve had a number of free kick goals, a number of goals off corners – and penalty kicks as well. So we’re becoming quite dangerous off set pieces, which is good to see because it adds another dimension to our game.”

Delgado scored again in the 66th minute to help the Panthers improve to 9-5 entering next week’s KC Cup – and to cap an evening that pleased Brown.

“We’ve been struggling a little in front of the net lately,” he said. “And so, to see us get three goals in a game is awesome, three different goals – one from a set piece, one from a shot from distance and one from up close…. It was excellent.”

And overall, Tracy was pleased with Van Horn’s performance. In addition to their grit, he praised their defensive play.

“Oak Grove is solid,” Tracy said. “They’re good. So a lot of attacks could’ve been in the back of the net that weren’t.”

One disappointing part of the evening for Tracy was losing one of his captains, senior forward Naomi Kroeger, to an ACL tear. To fill Kroeger’s leadership role, he can turn to his other captain – sophomore center back Kayla Sua.

“She’s not a talker,” Tracy said. “But she’s a worker. And she’s a thinker…. The girls all respect her. … If I need something done, I can put it on her shoulders.”