The Pekin girls soccer team didn’t exactly fly out of the gate in its season opener Thursday at Coal Miners Park.

After a sluggish first half, the host Dragons came to life after halftime and defeated shorthanded non-conference opponent Normal West 4-1.

“The game was definitely a tale of two halves,” said Pekin coach Edgar Sandoval. “We were just OK in the first half. We didn’t play with a lot of purpose. It seemed we passed the ball only to get rid of it. I told the girls that at halftime.”

Pekin played with purpose in the second half.

“Did we ever,” Sandoval said. “We got some quick goals.”

Down 1-0 at halftime, the Dragons exploded after the break, scoring twice in 16 seconds to move in front 2-1. Pekin added two insurance goals later in the second half.

Pekin’s Maddy Cash scored from Alex Bassen at 42:23 to tie the game, then Tyranie Cox scored unassisted at 42:39. Cox scored again at 55:09 on an assist from Tayler Scally and Bassen scored at 70:02, assisted by Cash.

A couple factors may have contributed to Pekin’s slow start.

First, the Dragons didn’t have any outdoor practices before the game. Their practices were inside at the Avanti’s Dome.

“We spent a lot of time in pre-game warm-ups passing the ball around on the field to get used to it,” Sandoval said.

And this is a Pekin team trying to find its identity after losing six senior starters to graduation. The Dragons were 16-4-2 last year including 5-1-1 as champions of the Mid-Illini Conference.

“Many of those six seniors were starters for three or four seasons,” Sandoval said.

Of the six departed senior starters, Leighton Rhoades (Faulkner University), Christy Torrey (Illinois Central College), Katie Pendleton (St. Ambrose University) and Katelyn Smith (St. Ambrose) have moved on to play soccer the next level.

Audrey Marsaglia scored unassisted at 14:12 to give Normal West its halftime lead.

Paige Smith and Alison McCabe split goalie duties for the Dragons, as they’ll probably do all season. Smith and McCabe were helped defensively Thursday by right back Megan Nelson and left back McKenzie Cupi.

“Megan and McKenzie were both solid,” Sandoval said.

NEXT: Pekin at Bloomington, 4:15 p.m., Tuesday (non-conference).

Steve Stein can be reached at stevestein21@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.