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Girls soccer: Bulldogs edge Osky for second straight win

Apr. 12—OTTUMWA — It's been a rough year for Ilana Vasconez.

Despite finishing second on the team in goals (11) and points (25) as a freshman on the Ottumwa High School girls soccer team, Vasconez had to fight back on to the pitch after suffering a concussion midway through last season. This season, Vasconez has been trying to battle back into form again after suffering an ankle injury before the start of her sophomore campaign.

"It's been very frustrating and very hard both mentally and physically," Vasconez said. "I wasn't able to start practicing this season when everyone else did. I started out a week-and-a-half behind. Coming out of a walking boot and not being able to walk on it right at first was tough, but I've been slowly feeling myself getting a little better each day. I feel like I'm finally getting back in the zone."

On Thursday night, Vasconez started to show signs of rounding back into form. Besides leading the Bulldogs with nine shots during Thursday's match with Oskaloosa, Vasconez found the back of the net for her first goal of the season less than two minutes into the second half lifting Ottumwa to a 2-1 win over the Indians at Eric Wertheim Memorial Field.

"It's been a very tough beginning of the season starting off 0-3. Not being able to get a shot off, personally, has been hard," Vasconez said. "I just really wanted to get one in. I knew that if I just kept shooting, eventually I'd get one into the net."

Ottumwa once again dominated most of the possession as well as the total number of shots taken against an opponent for the second time this week. After holding a 33-5 edge in shots on Monday in a 2-0 win over Albia, Ottumwa outshot Oskaloosa 26-6 on Thursday.

The Indians, however, made the most of their opportunities. Ottumwa (2-3) adjusted slowly to playing on a natural grass surface for the first time this season while battling cold, windy conditions at the start of Thursday's match allowing Oskaloosa to take a 1-0 lead thanks to a defensive miscue that resulted in a potential clearing kick by the Bulldogs being deflected back into Ottumwa's net less than 10 minutes into the match.

"I don't know where our heads were in the first half," Ottumwa head girls soccer coach Matthew Erlandson said. "I kind of left it up to the seniors to help clean things up. I trust them to get the message across to the rest of the team. They know how to play soccer, they know what's going well and what isn't."

One of those seniors used her speed, and the slower pace of the ball rolling through the grass at Wertheim Field, to even the score. Mia Garza-Trejo outran a pair of Oskaloosa defenders down the field, getting to a long ball sent deep into Osky territory, before moving in for the tying goal in the 20th minute lifting Ottumwa into a 1-1 tie in the first half.

"It was really just pure luck. I was just trying to see how many I could take on, then I got close enough to the goal to take a shot," Garza-Trejo said. "It was a huge difference playing on grass. The ball just rolls a lot slower, so it definitely requires more running to get the ball down the field."

The match stayed tied for the remainder of the half. It would not stay tied long after the second half began as Vasconez took a pass from Garza-Trejo and moved in for a confident strike securing her 12th career high school goal for the Bulldogs.

"I'm growing every single day and I'm starting to get somewhat back to where I was last year," Vasconez said. "The ankle's still swollen, but it's starting to get back to normal. There's still a little bit of pain, but I feel like I'm at a point where I can handle it without letting it slow me down."

The Indians (1-3) were able to keep the deficit at a single goal despite another 13 shots taken by the Bulldogs over the final 38 minutes. While Oskaloosa had just four shots during that same span, the Indians nearly extended the match as Ana Boosalis got a look at a wide open net but missed a shot high over the crossbar with just two minutes left.

"The girls came out pretty sharp in the second half," Erlandson said. "We responded to getting punched in the mouth right away. After making some bad decisions, we came back. That's what it takes some days. You can come out and win even when things aren't going your way."

— Scott Jackson can be reached at sjackson@ottumwacourier.com. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.