Metamora High School girls soccer

Tom Batters
Kristin Rauh

The Metamora High School girl’s soccer team’s season ended Friday night with a 5-0 loss to Morton in the Class 2A Regional title game.

The heavily-favored Potters, who only lost two games all year, did what they were expected to do, and now they will move on to compete for a Sectional championship.

The Metamora players will pack up the soccer balls and get ready for summer club leagues.

But, let’s not close the book on this season yet.

It ended with an average but respectable 5-6-4 record and another Regional title loss, but there are a few points worth making about this group before we file this season into the archives.

Let’s start with junior defensive back Lily Costello.

If there was ever a player who was meant to play for coach Danny Driscoll, it’s Costello, the tough, physical player who has a knack for stifling the opposition’s fast breaks.

Driscoll preaches a defensive, ball-control style of play and it’s important to have somebody in the far backfield who can make things difficult for another team’s top scorer.

It seemed that whenever an opposing player broke free for a possible shot on goal, Costello was there to kick the ball away or maybe even crash against that player (sometimes it gets called, sometimes it doesn’t) to prevent the scoring chance.

Costello will return next year, and I expect her to be one of the area’s top defensive players.

In fact, everyone on this team, except for senior Lauren Kells, will return next year.

That’s encouraging.

This team got better as the year went on, and I expect them to get much better next year after another preseason’s worth of intense, orchestrated practices under Driscoll.

“We’re young, but, with some more hard work, we can take that next step,” Driscoll said Friday. “But, we have to do the work. If we don’t work hard this summer, then we’ll be right back in this same spot. I think the players realize that. They know what are deficiencies are, and they are willing to work on those.”

I watched this team battle Pekin (one of the top teams in the area) to a 0-0 tie back in April. The Redbirds looked like they could beat anybody that night. Their defensive center backs (Costello and sophomore Abby Young), and sophomore goalkeeper Kate Anderson were in lock-down mode.

Anderson made 16 saves against Morton Friday night. She got beat up on a few of them as she dove for the ball or stuck her neck out in traffic to tip a ball away.

The only problem was that nobody scored. The Redbirds went several games without a goal this season, but it appears that will improve next year, too.

In a 4-2 win over Washington in the Regional semifinal game May 17, the Redbirds proved that they can go on the offensive.

Juniors Kristin Rauh and Nicole Musselman each scored two goals. Juniors Paige Arends and Jacey Johnson had assists. Johnson assisted on both Musselman goals.

Rauh, the team’s leading scorer, showed off some nifty one-on-one moves to get free for her two goals. She also has a powerful leg, and can blast shots into the net from 30 yards out or further.

Teams repeatedly try to double team her and knock her down, but she consistently gets her foot on the ball in front of the net.

Musselman and Johnson (Driscoll calls her “Snoop”) worked well together with crisp passing and coordinated sprints toward the net.

With all those players, and a strong group of freshmen, sophomores and juniors returning, maybe Friday’s loss was not the end, but the start of something special for next year.

Who knows? Maybe, a year from now, the Redbirds, not the Potters, will be holding the Regional title plaque.