Truman girls soccer coach Manny Tovar admitted that some of his players had some nerves going into their season opener against Oak Park.
The Patriots have just five seniors on their roster and Tovar started a handful of underclassmen Tuesday. Judging from their play, it was hard to tell that anyone in Truman uniform was nervous.
Truman scored three goals in the first half and got a pair of goals from underclassmen as it cruised to a 4-0 home victory.
“It was good to get (the underclassmen) involved,” Tovar said. “I know some of them were kind of nervous for their first game. Some of our younger classmen will have to make sure they step up this year.
“We’re definitely younger. We lost some key players from last year’s team. We’re going to be struggling on that end. It’s going to be a learning-as-we-go type of team.”
Added senior Charley Burton: “They did great. They said they were nervous, but I didn’t see it.”
Not only did the Patriots not look nervous, they made getting scoring chances look easy. They controlled possession for most of the game and allowed just two shots, while firing off 22 of their own. Oak Park rarely had the ball in Truman’s third of the field.
The offense was jump-started by a pair of underclassmen. In the 11th minute, Burton drilled a direct free kick off the top post. Sophomore forward Valerie Xayaphet charged in and headed in the rebound for a 1-0 lead.
About 9 minutes later, Burton sent a high-arching corner kick in front of the Oak Park goal. Freshman Laney Smith tracked it down and knocked in a header for a 2-0 advantage.
“When we started, the nerves went away,” Smith said.
With 5:16 left in the first half, Burton decided to get into the act of scoring. There was a loose ball in the middle of the field as it deflected off a Patriot then an Oakie. Burton flew in and drilled a 28-footer past diving Oak Park goalkeeper Kari Westberg for a 3-0 lead.
The Patriots got off eight shots in the second half, but Burton was the only one to find the back of the net. She showed off her leg once again when she blasted a shot from the far left side of the field from 30-plus yards out, and it snuck inside the goalpost to give Truman a big cushion.
“Charley has everything we look for,” Tovar said. “She works hard and is good technically and she can shoot the ball. That’s what we want from her. She did a fabulous job tonight.”
Even though Truman cruised to the victory, Tovar noted there are still a lot of things to work on, but he was pleased of his team’s first showing of the season.
“Offensively, we run too straight. We are not dynamic enough,” Tovar said. “Defensively, we need to work more on it.”