LEBANON — On a team loaded with offensive weapons, the Lewis and Clark Community College defense has contributed its fair share to the team’s 18-0 record. In fact, the Trailblazers have allowed only four goals all season.
Of course, some of that has to do with the fact that L&C spends so much time controlling the ball and scoring goals itself. But don’t be fooled, L&C coach Tim Rooney said after his team’s 5-1 win over Southwestern Illinois College in Friday night’s Central District Tourney championship game at McKendree University.
“Our defense has been solid all year,” Rooney said. “We do possess the ball a lot, but our defenders have been consistent all year.
We wouldn’t be going to the national tournament without that defense, that’s for sure.”
The Trailblazers are indeed heading for the NJCAA Division National Championships, set for Nov. 12-17 in Foley, Alabama. It will be their second consecutive trip to the nationals and the team’s third in the last four seasons. They’ll be looking for L&C’s third national championship. L&C also won titles in 1999 and 2008.
The Trailblazers’ win over SWIC meant the trip to the nationals. And it came with plenty of help from the defense.
“We made adjustments because SWIC has some dangerous players who were giving us a hard time,” Rooney said. “But we came through it OK.”
The Blue Storm did score a goal, however. It was SWIC’s first in three games against the unbeaten Trailblazers this season. It came late in the game when Chloe Scott pounced on the ball as L&C goalie Mercedes King was attempting to pick it up in front of her goal.
“It was close and could have gone either way,” Rooney said. “(Scott) is a quick, really good player. I’m not sure whether or not Mercedes had complete possession of the ball. Maybe if we weren’t already up 4-0, it might have gone the other way, but I thought we did a good job overall of shutting down their dangerous players.
“Sydney Schmidt did a fantastic job on (SWIC’s Jalyn) Richardson.”
Richardson, a freshman from Collinsville, finished the season with 18 goals, but was held scoreless by L&C in three games.
Schmidt, a freshman fullback from Alton High is joined by Claire Dalton, a sophomore from Marquette Catholic High; Jocelyn Wagner, a freshman from Edwardsville and Allie Smith, a sophomore center back from Chatham Glenwood.
It’s been a solid wall all season in front of goalie King, a freshman from Triad High School.
“We’re so fortunate to have a goalie like Mercedes,” Rooney said. “She’s always focused in the game and sees the field extremely well.”
In going 18-0 to this point, L&C has outscored the opposition 119-4. When you only give up four goals all season, it’s easy to remember what happened on each one, and Rooney indeed remembers.
“Of the four goals, two were more mental mistakes and two happened when we didn’t clear the ball cleanly,” he said. “The backs feed off Mercedes and she feeds off them.
“They play relaxed and with confidence because they know she’s back there in goal and she plays the same way because of how good they’re playing.”
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