As good as Mikayla McCarthy was as a freshman last season, she’s even better this year, and that’s bad news for opponents of the Collinsville girls soccer team.
McCarthy scored all of the Kahoks’ goals, as Collinsville (3-1 overall, 1-0 in the Southwestern Conference) rolled to an impressive 3-0 victory Thursday at Edwardsville.
“I think I check to the ball more than what I did last year, when I would just want the ball up in front of me and run onto it,” McCarthy said. “I’ve learned to check back and it helps a lot.”
Last year, Edwardsville beat Collinsville during the regular season, but the Kahoks bounced back to beat the Tigers in a Class 3A sectional semifinal.
“We knew they would apply a lot of pressure early, being a home match and a rematch of the sectional game last year,” Collinsville coach Clay Smith said. “All it takes is one counterattack with our speed up top to get things going, and that’s exactly the way it worked out.”
The loss dropped Edwardsville to 4-1 and 0-1.
“Collinsville is a great team and we knew that coming in,” Tigers coach Abby Bohnenstiehl said. “They were playing great through balls to (McCarthy) and she had one, two touches and she was able to find the back of the net.”
Edwardsville had several early scoring chances, including less than two minutes into the game when Collinsville keeper Holly Bluemner made a leaping save on a free kick by Lily Cobb.
“This is the first season for Holly as a starter, but you couldn’t tell tonight,” Smith said. “She’s worked hard in the offseason and she does some things well. They did have the better of the play, without a doubt, but to withstand that type of pressure from a team like Edwardsville shows a lot of character in our back four and from some of our midfielders.”
It was Collinsville, though, that took advantage of its opportunities. With 21:40 remaining in the first half, McCarthy got a breakaway on a pass from Kat Roe and put the ball past Edwardsville goalie Kristen Francis just inside the right goalpost.
The Kahoks boosted their lead to 2-0 with 15:20 left in the half. After a scramble in front of the net, Francis made the initial save on a shot by Ashley Zamarione, but McCarthy, from 10 yards out on the right side, put in the rebound.
“Mikayla is a very special player,” Smith said. “She had a great year last year as a freshman with 15 goals and she’s had a year to mature and get stronger.
“The thing I love about her is that she has fun out here. She always has a smile on her face, except for right now because she’s freezing, but she enjoys what she does.”
McCarthy picked up the hat trick with 16:12 to play in the second half. After taking a pass from Roe, rather than trying to blast the ball past Francis, she hesitated for a split second and beat her with a slower shot to the right corner.
“I was a little nervous, but she came out of the box and I didn’t know where I was supposed to shoot it,” McCarthy said. “It was all luck.”
The game was a physical affair, with each team having two yellow cards.
“It’s always been rough between Edwardsville and Collinsville,” Bohnenstiehl said. “All the girls know each other and they get so pumped up for this game.”
“Any time it’s an Edwardsville-Collinsville game, you know it’s going to be chippy and there are going to be some cards thrown,” Smith said. “Arms were up on both sides and we got some bad calls and I felt like they got some bad calls, but that’s just the way it is.”