ST. CHARLES • Junior midfielder Alex Bustamante knew Hazelwood West's win Friday came at a cost.
During a 5-1 win over the host school to capture the Orchard Farm Tournament girls soccer title, the Wildcats lost freshman goalkeeper Riley Nilges to what was likely broken ribs after she collided with an Orchard Farm player in the first half.
“That was really tough because she's been one of our key players,” Bustamante said. “It's going to be tough without her. We're going to have to pick it up even more. She got both knees directly into the ribs.”
West (8-6-1) scored the game's final two goals after Nilges' injury while playing spotless defense in front of sophomore Alexis Cain.
Senior midfielder and St. Louis University signee Hannah Friedrich opened the scoring with tallies in the fourth and fifth minutes.
“We haven't had a tournament win in a while and it was great that we picked up our energy,” Friedrich said. “I really think this can get us going as we head into districts.”
After a goal by Orchard Farm senior forward Avery Kitchen came in the seventh minute to cut the deficit to 2-1, West struck again.
Bustamante scored in the 17th to make it 3-1 and the Wildcats poured it on with a goal by Friedrich two minutes later, her 18th of the season.
The final goal of the game came with six minutes left as Bustamante finished off her fourth goal of the season and second of the game.
Orchard Farm coach Courtney Washburn hopes to see improvement from the Eagles (13-4, No. 10 in the STLhighschoolsports.com small-schools rankings) after the slow start.
“I don't think we were quite ready in the first half and didn't come out very strong,” Washburn said. “In the second half, we showed up. We came out and gave a little more fight and showed more intensity. West is a great, skilled team. I know that the next time we play them we can compete with them.”
Acting West coach Ray Stahl said that the win, West's fourth in a row after alternating positive and negative results all season, was great even though the loss of Nilges hurt.
“This was a nice win, but it all came at a price,” Stahl said. “The loss at Pattonville really turned it around for this group. They've had tough games against good opponents all season where they have been on the wrong side of the score. The way they were on the wrong side of the score against Pattonville with penalty kicks, I think they did (turn a corner).”
Bustamante said that she feels the Wildcats are on a nice path as the regular season winds down and, while hard work will be necessary in front of whoever is in goal, the team will come together.
“That was a tough loss for us, so we're just trying to get back from that loss,” Bustamante said. “I really think we have turned a corner and the way we're playing, we can use this as we had into districts. We do have a tough week coming up, but we'll be ready to give it our best whoever is in goal.”