Jenna Brown wanted to leave no doubt.
So, with 6:23 remaining in the second half, the senior forward netted a goal from about 20 yards out to give Claremore the separation it needed in a 2-0 district win over Tahlequah at Lantow Field on Tuesday night.
“The ball was kind of bouncing around a little bit, but it got played back to me, and I took the opportunity,” said Brown, who is signed to play at Kansas State next season. “I saw I had space in front of me, so I took that touch to set up a shot and tried to hit it as hard as I could on frame.”
The win moved the Lady Zebras (4-3, 2-0) into the top spot of District 5A-4. Metro Christian is also 2-0 in district play, but Claremore owns the tiebreaker via margin points.
“The win was big, and that’s all I can really say about it,” Lady Zebras coach Ryan Jahn said. “I didn’t really know what to expect from Tahlequah; we tried to compare scores a little bit. We kind of knew and thought it’d be a pretty good matchup, and we expected the score to be what it was.
“This was one of our better performances. Sure, we didn’t score a lot of goals, but we gave ourselves a lot of opportunities to score goals. I think this was the most shots we’ve had in a game against a tougher opponent.”
Claremore controlled the ball for most of the game, pushing the pace and forcing Tahlequah to exert itself defensively. Prior to the game-clincher, Brown and others had several chances at the goal that either barely missed wide or bounced off the post.
Brown said she was relieved to finally convert on an opportunity near the goal, especially so late in the game.
“Getting it in the back of the net definitely lifted our spirits a little bit,” Brown said. “It then wasn’t as competitive because it kind of brought the other team down.
“We just tried to compete and go 100 percent, and we were able to put those two goals in the back of the net.”
Although Brown’s experience and knack for finding the goal ultimately took over down the stretch, the Lady Zebras’ first goal came from one of the younger members of the squad.
Lilly Sweet, one of the nine freshmen on the 21-girl roster, displayed great poise and awareness in the first half, taking a well-timed pass from junior Hailey Braswell before booting it past Lady Tigers goalkeeper Jaycee Adams.
Jahn said the sequence leading up to the goal was rather exciting.
“She scored from the same spot in the JV game,” Jahn said. “Hailey Burden, who is also on JV, was out wide and played it in the middle to Hailey Braswell. Her back was facing away from the goal, she picked her head up and saw Sweet and made it off to her, and (Sweet) put it in the back of the net. Very nice goal on her part.”
With so many underclassmen on Claremore’s team compared to the four seniors, there is bound to be a significant jelling period.
However, Jahn said despite it being still early in the season, the players have developed a chemistry that’ll make them a tough out come the playoffs.
“We are very freshman heavy, and they are starting to mesh with the upperclassmen,” Jahn said. “We’re coming together at the right time, and hopefully we can keep the momentum rolling going into Friday against Booker T.”