FENTON • When it comes to athletics, Roberta McWoods’ kids don’t do anything slow.
McWoods, the Kirkwood track and field coach, watched with pride last spring as speedy daughter Bria was barely nipped at the wire during the finals of the 300-meter hurdles at the state track and field championships in Jefferson City.
On Monday afternoon at the Soccer Park in Fenton, McWoods was in the stands as another of her fleet-footed offspring -- junior Eric -- used his speed to maneuver past a pair of Oakville defenders for the lone goal in the Pioneers’ 1-0 victory in the first round of the 58th annual CYC/Bob Guelker Memorial Tournament.
“Obviously he’s a very dangerous player,” Kirkwood coach Chris Steinmetz said. “When he gets the ball and is in a one-on-one situation or even most times one-on-two, he can turn with the ball so quickly, you don’t know what’s going to happen. ... His speed with his touch puts him in a lot of goal-scoring opportunities.”
In the 27th minute, McWoods won a ball deep in the right corner of the Oakville zone and darted past a defender down the endline. He then made a sharp left past another Tigers to get a better angle from which to shoot, and tucked the ball past Tigers goalie Troy Korte for his team-leading ninth goal of the season.
“I’m a little bit faster than (Bria),” McWoods said with a laugh. “The (first) guy was a little bit smaller than me, so I just tried to body him. Then a big guy came at me, so I was just trying to cut it by him and slip one in near post on the goalie.”
That was all the Pioneers and senior goalie Madison Baer would need to run their record to 6-3 on the season. The Pioneers and Tigers (3-6) are in Group C of the tourney with St. Louis U. High and Timberland. Kirkwood will face Timberland in its second pool-play contest at 7:45 p.m. Wednesday, while Oakville takes on St. Louis U. High.
The speed of McWoods and forward Clayton Shead gave the Tigers' backs fits all day. And when Oakville tried to counter by playing balls up to forwards Mike Munsell and Jake Dodge, the Pioneers defense -- spearheaded by senior Pat Mahoney and junior Marcus Griggs -- kept the Tigers from getting near the goal.
“We base our defense around them,” Steinmetz said. “They keep the center all locked down. They challenge everything in the air -- they step up. They both had solid games.”
Thanks to a couple miscues down the stretch, Kirkwood allowed a pair of corner kicks near the end of the game. But the Pioneers cleared the ball out of danger both times.
Oakville had a chance to jump ahead early in the contest. In the 15th minute, senior Messy Dedic blistered a shot just wide from just to the right of the penalty area.
From there, Kirkwood began to get the better chances, and McWoods’ goal gave them the lead at halftime.
Ten minutes into the second half, McWoods set up Andrew Phillips for a point-blank shot, but Korte slid out to knock it away.
Midway through the second half, Oakville looked like it would tie things up during a scramble in front of the Kirkwood goal. A high shot from just inside the penalty area got behind Baer, but Mahoney, stationed on the goal line, headed it away.
Oakville coach Dave Robben said the Pioneers’ defensive effort was stellar.
“Hats off to Kirkwood,” Robben said. “They played smartly and played with a lot of intensity. We couldn’t get any kind of rhythm going, and that’s a credit to them.
Robben added he is still trying to find the right combination of players to kickstart the squad, which has scored just 12 goals thus far -- four each from Munsell and Dodge.
“We’re at that point of the season where we’re still struggling to find out who we are,” Robben said. “We’ve had to move some people around, and haven’t had the same set lineup since the second game of the season.”