Chris Allen didn’t hesitate to find a shooter when the Council Bluffs Lewis Central girls’ soccer team was called for a handball in the box during the final seconds of regulation in Saturday’s game against Ankeny Centennial.
He immediately called upon senior Megan Gray.
“I think Meg believes in herself quite a bit,” Allen said. “Her shots in practice are always on frame, and you want to make sure in that situation that you have someone with a confident shot that keeps it on frame. And she hasn’t settled into one particular shot. She’s able to shoot in both directions based on keeper reads or how she feels in the moment, so we feel pretty good about going with her.”
Gray, a Minnesota recruit, calmly showed why her coach had so much confidence in her. She buried the ensuing penalty kick with 4 seconds left to give the Jaguars a 2-1 victory in a tournament game at Urbandale.
“I definitely like the pressure just because it was an honor to be able to take the PK and have people that trust you on the field,” Gray said.
Gray scored both of her team’s goals as Centennial won the matchup of top-ranked teams. Lewis Central (9-3) lost to an Iowa opponent for the first time this season; the Titans’ other two losses were to Nebraska foes.
The Jaguars were forced to rally after Lewis Central took a 1-0 lead on a penalty kick by Mikayla McCart.
“We were called for a handball in the box, which I believe was an accurate call,” Allen said. “And then they made their PK, so we had to come back.”
Gray scored the equalizer off an assist by Kenzie Geiger, who dribbled the ball past three Lewis Central defenders and then fired a cross to her teammate.
“Meg finally broke the ice for us, but it was really a lackluster game on our part,” Allen said. “I don’t think any of us were pleased with our effort. I’m not saying that to take anything away from Lewis Central–they were physical and they were aggressive. They put us under pressure, and we just didn’t handle it very well or return it ultimately.
“It’s not the way we want to play,” he added.
Centennial later rolled to an 8-0 victory over Des Moines East in another tournament game at Dallas Center-Grimes. The Jaguars improved to 10-2 on the season.
Geiger, Gray and Marissa Lopez each had two goals in the win. Lopez, who is primarily a goalkeeper, started in the field and also had an assist as freshman Aly Jumper made her first varsity start in the box.
“We had some injuries, so we needed to move some people around,” Allen said.
Senior Karina Fritz provided a spark off the bench, contributing a goal and two assists. Miranda Wood, another reserve, scored the Jaguars’ only goal of the second half.
The loss dropped East’s record to 3-9. The Scarlets will play at Centennial in a Class 3A regional semifinal on May 30.
“I think we’ll have some confidence (for that game), but ultimately I hope we’re not satisfied with how we played this weekend,” Allen said. “It’s important for us to keep growing as a team, and quite frankly I didn’t see a lot of growth today. We just need to be better than what we showed today if we want to reach our ultimate goal.”
Gray said the players weren’t happy with the Jaguars’ performance, either.
“I know our coaches and team weren’t satisfied with our play at all today,” she said. “We talked about continuing to play at a high level and holding ourselves accountable. I think we learned from our mistakes today and hopefully can come out and play at our full potential in the future.”