STREATOR — While there was plenty of effort and standout play on both sides, the tentativeness, quick fatigue and wealth of near-misses that tend to show up in season openers on the soccer pitch as teams first begin to sharpen themselves were also on full display Monday as the Streator Lady Bulldogs played host to visiting Morris.
The weather didn't help things either.
It was quite cold, it was very windy, and it was a scoreless tie here behind the Streator Family YMCA, as the Lady 'Dogs and their former NIB 12 conference foes played to a 0-0 final with no overtime period. Each team had lots of good and a few great scoring opportunities — Morris more in the first half with the crossfield wind slightly in their favor, Streator in the second half with the wind cutting across their backs instead of their fronts — but neither could cash in, leaving both 0-0-1 to start the 2018 campaign.
"The weather definitely broke our play up," said Streator coach J.T. Huey. "Morris' defense, as you saw, was very tight in the center, and normally we would try to push with it, but we couldn't push with it because the wind would knock it down every single time.
"Normally the cold and the wind shouldn't affect your game, but today? It's 45 degrees, it's 25-30 mph, and it's also the first game, so we don't have game conditioning yet, so you saw players getting gassed 20 minutes into the first half and 10 minutes into the second half."
While the constant wind gusts pushed the ball more west across the field than south toward one goal, it did consistently push the ball — and as a result, play — both directions. Morris took advantage of that in the first half, putting 12 shots on goal to Streator's three.
Swapping sides of the field for the second half, the Lady Bulldogs placed 14 shots on goal to Morris' seven. The hosts' 14 shots included a Sam Goerne shot off the east post shortly after halftime and a rapid-fire final three minutes which saw Streator pepper the Morris side with penetration and shot attempts — led by multiple attacks from sophomore Hannah Schmitz and a perfect Ashley McCurdy pass to fellow striker Millie Dean, who lofted a bloop shot just over the Morris keeper's outstretched hands but also just over the crossbar, with the ball landing harmlessly on top of the net.
Junior midfielder Alyssa Eutsey had Streator's last look with 10 seconds remaining, but that shot was also denied, the clock struck zeroes, and the contest ended in a 0-0 tie.
"Very rusty, and the weather didn't help," said Morris coach Steve Rain. "We had a hard time keeping the ball on the ground, connecting passes. Under different weather circumstances, I think it would have been a lot different game for both teams. I think the direction of the wind had a lot to do with it too, with each team having the favor of the wind a half."
Streator keeper Emma Harris stopped all 18 shots which made it to her, with Devin Lee streaking in and stopping the other MCHS shot on goal at point-blank range with her body after a Harris save ricocheted to a Morris would-be scorer early in the second half. Lee, Nadia Murphy and especially Sam Goerne and Anna Nelson shined defensively as Streator kept its net clean.
Morris followed Lee's clutch step-in save with a non-goalie save of its own a few minutes later to preserve the double shutout.
"We'll take the tie," said Huey. "I don't mind the tie in this one.
"We saw some mechanical things we need to work on, but what coach wouldn't say there were some mechanical things to work on after their first game? We'll clean those up, hope for some better weather and get back at it."