COPPERAS COVE — For the first 35 minutes of play on Friday night, the Copperas Cove Lady Bulldawgs soccer team held District 8-5A perennial-powerhouse Belton without a goal.
In a scoreless tie, Belton had put 14 shots on goal and Cove had one.
Ashley Winkler, the Lady Tiger’s star forward, felt 35 minutes was a long enough scoring drought.
“I was simply thinking that we really needed to get ourselves a goal,” Winkler said. “We’d been taking a lot of shots but we hadn’t really been taking any great rips. I thought if we’re gonna score we have to really rip one.”
And that’s what she did.
With 4:40 left in the half, Lady Tiger midfielder Bailee Boren gave a sweet 15-yard feed to Winkler who stood 20 yards from Cove’s net.
“That pass from Bailee was perfect,” Winkler said. “It went directly to my feet. I just took one step in and kicked it really hard.”
Hard? This 19-yard boot off Winkler’s foot was a missile. The soccer ball went directly into the upper-right corner of the net.
“That shot was absolutely awesome,” Boren said.
“That shot was beautiful,” said Belton head coach Wendy Knight. “On the sidelines, we turned around and said, ‘How come we don’t have a video out here tonight for that shot?’ That’s one of those shots that you like to show your team at the end of the season for a great highlight. Ashley’s ability to get a rip on the ball like that is something most athletes don’t have.”
Winkler’s goal seemed to invigorate Belton and a minute later, midfielder Jamie Brown tallied off an assist from Winkler.
Up 2-0 at halftime, Belton scored three times in the second half and left town with a 5-0 win.
For the contest, Belton outshot the Lady Dawgs 28-3 and upped its district-leading record to 10-1. Cove fell to 4-8.
But no Lady Dawg was hanging her head after the game. There’s no shame losing to Belton. The Lady Tigers have outscored their 2014 opponents by the ridiculous margin of 67-2.
Cove goalie Alex Johnson had a terrific game. She repeatedly left the safe area of the net and jumped out 10 yards, sometimes 15 yards, to make head-first dives to thwart Belton offensive thrusts.
“Alex Johnson played awesome tonight,” said Cove captain and center-midfielder Shelbie Letzer. “I’ve seen great goalies play a lot and I haven’t seen a goalie that can make that many high-quality saves on so many great shots like Alex did tonight.”
Johnson was credited with 23 saves.
“I’m not even sure how I was able to stop all those shots,” Johnson said. “My defenders helped me out a lot. Our team has shown so much improvement lately. We’re proud of the way we played tonight. This is one of the best games we’ve had during our district season.”
Courtney Everette, a junior midfielder, also stood out for Cove.
“We played Belton a lot better tonight than we did the last time we played them (an 8-0 Belton win on Feb. 11),” Everette said.
“I think our team, overall, played well,” Letzer said. “Belton played a great game — but they always do.”
The four Lady Tiger fullbacks, Tarran Lisenbe, Alexis Mack, Jacey Love and Briana Davis, were sensational. This foursome was a virtual wall. Of Cove’s three shots, only one — a fine late-game boot by Amanda Arrisola — had a chance to find net.
“Our defense stayed compact tonight,” Davis said. “That was the key for us.”
Winkler scored two of Belton’s second-half goals and Aubrey Martinez tallied the third.
Of her hat trick, Winkler said, “Honestly, I wasn’t even thinking about it. Getting the hat trick wasn’t important. What I was thinking about is that our team just needed to score more goals in that second half.”
“Ashley’s first goal for us was huge,” Knight said. “After that, we started attacking more — and that’s the way I always want us to play.”