BATH TOWNSHIP — A stout defensive effort and a little bit of grit offensively helped Bluffton fend off Bath, 2-0, in a non league affair Saturday.
Bluffton improves to 2-0 on the season and for Bath it was the team’s opener under new head coach Steve Smucker, who after a successful run as the Bluffton high school boys team, moved over this year to take over the Bath girls’ program.
“We weren’t at our best today,” Bluffton head coach Jamie Mehaffie said. “I told our girls that today was a grind. Our touches weren’t there and our communication wasn’t there at times. Give Bath credit. They came hard and played really hard for the 50-50 balls and they did a good job of organizing and finding their passes.”
Bluffton’s first goal proved to be instrumental in the Pirates’ victory. After a tough defensive battle throughout the majority of the first half, the Pirates finally broke through and it began with a whistle and ended with the ball in the back of the net. With 40 seconds remaining in the first half, Bath was called for a foul just outside the box and Bluffton was awarded the free kick. Wildcat Olivia Matthews took advantage of the opportunity and fired the shot past Bath goalie Kyla Bailey and into the left corner of the goal for the score.
“Whenever you can score in the last five minutes of the first half it is a lift,” Mehaffie said. “We weren’t playing our best that first half so it was nice to get that goal with 40 seconds left.”
“That was hard. That was a momentum killer,” said Smucker about that first score. “We felt really good about the first 35 minutes against a good team. This is essentially our first match so they are still getting used to me and I am still figuring out who goes where but I felt like we competed well.
“I thought defensively we did well and we just broke down because they have a lot of speed and a lot of strength up top but I am happy with our effort and the key is can we sustain that.”
Coming out in the second half, Bath looked to get the equalizer and came out with a more aggressive approach and in the first 10 minutes attacked the Pirate defense in hopes of breaking through for the tie. But the Bluffton defense, led by the back line of seniors Matthews, Makayla Schweingrube, Jasmine Hastings and Kendal Giesege thwarted several Pirate attacks and keeper Julie Mehaffie did not let a ball get past her.
“We are fortunate to have four seniors back there and a senior goalie,” Mehaffie said. “They have the experience and going into the season, I think it is going to be difficult, unless we make some mistakes, for teams to breakdown our back four. They have played together for awhile and they are really strong and communicate well.”
Smucker pointed out that the team’s mentality is to win the first 10 minutes and the last 1o minutes of each half and he said that is something that goes back to your warmup.
“What was your warmup like,” Smucker added. “Are you focused and are you talking about other things and it should lead right into the game. We talking about those things and trying to fix those things.”
After enduring Bath’s advances, Bluffton got a big insurance goal when Sami Scoles beat Bailey for the second goal with just over 19 minutes left in the game. In the first half, Scoles had two chances to score but was stonewalled by Bailey but this time Scoles weaved her way deep into the box and beat Bailey for the goal.
“Whenever you are in a 1-0 and get that insurance goal it takes a little pressure off and more pressure on them,” Mehaffie said.
Smucker admitted that he is still searching for some team chemistry.
“We are trying some new people out and seeing where the chemistry is and what talent works best together. We have a lot of personnel to choose from that can all contribute but it is who works best with each other.”