By Rick Atkinson

For the Anna-Melissa Tribune

FARMERSVILLE – With two starters out, Melissa’s Lady Cardinals put down a strong defensive effort from Class 4A Farmersville on Jan. 20 at Farmers Stadium - ultimately winning, 3-0.

The Lady Cards (7-2-1) put 19 shots-on-goal to their opponents’ three and controlled play most of the night, but the Lady Farmers came up with several stops when goals looked certain. Of course, the Lady Cards’ defense was even better, pitching a shutout as goalkeeper Anna Blankenship deftly stopped Farmersville’s two best chances. Then there were Melissa’s three goals – two by Payton Wallace, one by Kylie Kroese – that kept the Lady Farmers (3-4-3) at bay.

Starting Lady Card forwards Lucy Hurst and Macie Robertson missed this contest due to injury.

“I really thought we performed well,” Lady Cards head coach Manuel Avila said. “We just did not finish very well. It seemed like every time we got an opportunity, one of their defenders was jumping in the way and blocking a shot or deflecting it. We just couldn’t really get a whole lot on the frame, which is frustrating. You have those nights like that.”

“But as far as overall play, I thought we hit the ball well, I thought we were aggressive. … We had the lion’s share of possession – probably 60- or 70-percent of possession. [Farmersville] defended and wanted to counter-attack on us and they got a couple of opportunities. We did what we wanted to do but I don’t know that the scoreboard really reflected how well we played.” In two non-district matches between these teams this year, the Lady Farmers have not scored a goal. Melissa won the meeting 6-0 on Jan. 6 at Cardinal Stadium.

Eight minutes into the contest, Wallace got the Lady Cards on the board with a close-range header off Hanna Waters’ assist. Near the midpoint of the first period another Melissa score looked likely as Lady Card attackers crowded Farmersville’s goal, but three shots were beaten back. Moments later, a Lady Farmer’s breakaway down the middle was neatly thwarted by Melissa’s Madeline Kuehler. With 8:10 left before the break, another Farmersville breakaway ended when Blankenship charged 20 yards out from the net for a clutch stop. Five minutes later, Blankenship snuffed a close-in kick at the left post.

“She did a great job doing that,” Avila said of that first save. “She likes to do that. There’s a little bit of risk-reward in there, but she made two really good decisions on a couple of balls. One was a little closer than she wanted it to be but she got there - she got home, did her job. She’s looking great.”

Farmersville had one other breakaway in the first period, this time getting a shot off but it was batted away by Blankenship then Kuehler kept a Lady Farmer from getting the rebound.

As time expired in the first period, Wallace’s stroked a shot-on-goal was slapped high outside the left post with a one-handed save.

Thirteen minutes into the second period, Melissa’s Kylie Kroese scored off the rebound of a right-corner kick, first taking the ball out a few feet from the goal then spinning and driving it high into the net. With the Lady Cards up, 2-0, and 8:15 left to play, a 20-yard straight-on shot by Melissa’s Ellie Schaeffer just missed over the crossbar. Then with four minutes to go, a Wallace-Waters combination play ended with Wallace burying a shot from the top of the 18-yard penalty box for the Lady Cards’ final margin of victory.

At Class 5A Denison on Jan. 24, Melissa (8-2-1) blanked the Lady Jackets 6-0.