Ashford wills Mill Valley soccer past SMNW
Overland Park Junior Jake Ashford was feeling more sore than usual after the Mill Valley soccer team's 3-1 win over Shawnee Mission Northwest on Thursday, but it was worth it.
Ashford scored twice to power the Jaguars past the Cougars. The Mill Valley midfielder soared above the SM Northwest back line on Ian Carroll's corner kick to send a header into the back of the net in the ninth minute, and gave the Jaguars an insurance goal in the 51st when he got his foot on a 50-50 ball before getting knocked down in a collision with a Cougar defender.
Ashford remained down on the pitch for a few minutes before walking off under his own power, but eventually re-entered midway through the second half. The Mill Valley junior didn't have any trouble smiling through the soreness after helping the Jaguars to their fourth straight win to open the season.
"It was fantastic to score," Ashford said. "It makes it not hurt as bad. It still hurts, but it's not as bad so it was nice to score."
The first goal for Ashford came off of one of four corners that the Jaguars earned in the first 15 minutes. The Jaguars were well aware of the Cougars' firepower on offense, and wanted to dictate the tempo early.
"It got us relaxed, especially after the first goal and we just kept it on them," Ashford said of the Jaguars' fast start. "They were really defending a lot that first half, so it was nice to have a lot of offensive pressure on them."
The Jaguars weren't able to relax too much, though. The Cougars showed off their speed when sophomore Cole Slack surged past a couple of defenders for an equalizer in the 16th minute after an assist from Henry Fears.
"I think for us to come back and get the equalizer was huge and kind of redirected the tempo a little bit," SM Northwest coach Todd Boren said. "The game evened out a little bit."
While the Cougars (2-2) seized some of the momentum with Slack's goal — the first allowed by Mill Valley all season — the Jaguars took the lead right back 10 minutes later when Eric Melendez scored off of another set piece. Boren wasn't too upset with the Ashford's header, as he gave credit to the Mill Valley junior for making an exceptional play, but he was frustrated that the Cougars didn't do a better job of defending Melendez' strike from 15 yards out.
"The second goal, we could have done better getting it out," Boren said. "That's the bottom line."
Boren's squad was able to regroup and put the pressure back on the Jaguars in the closing minutes of the first half, but their search for an equalizer came up empty. Jack Lammers blasted a shot over the crossbar with 1:15 to play in the half, and Michael Filsinger played a ball into the box on a free kick with 15 seconds before the break that the Cougars couldn't put into the back of the net.
"We had plenty of chances in the remainder of the first half to equalize," Boren said. "When you get three, four sitters like that in front of the frame and don't hit the frame, then you're not helping yourself out much. Going in at halftime (trailing), 2-1, I think that was difficult."
The Jaguars came out as the aggressor again to begin the second half. Ashford nearly netted another goal in the 46th minute, but Filsinger dashed over to block the tap-in opportunity. He wouldn't be denied, though, when he scored five minutes later, and the two-goal lead was plenty for the Jaguars the rest of the way.
"We're feeling good. I can't remember the last time I was on a Mill Valley team that was 4-0," Ashford said. "We're looking good going into some EKL games next week against some tough opponents, so I think we have a good chance."
Mill Valley will gear up for a road match with St. Thomas Aquinas at 7 p.m. Tuesday, while SM Northwest will play Park Hill South at 1 p.m. today at the Shawnee Mission Soccer Complex.