Sterlington 4, Ouachita 1 (girls)
Sterlington scored twice in the first 13 minutes and limited Ouachita to five shots on target in a season-opening 4-0 victory Tuesday evening at Panther Field.
Noor Sheikh-Khalil took a pass from Hannah Jerkins, and after a 20-yard run, drilled a left-footed shot into the near side of the netting to put the Lady Panthers up 1-0 just seven minutes in.
Ouachita mounted its first challenge two minutes later when Sara Stacy shot into the side of the net off of a corner kick.
Back on the other end, Maddie Lawhon made a stunning move to maneuver past a defender deep in the box for a 2-0 Sterlington lead.
Any thoughts of a Sterlington rout were dismissed when Stacy weaved between two defenders and deposited a shot from the right side into the net to bring Ouachita within 2-1 in the 27th minute.
Although the Lady Lions were unable to solve goalkeeper Ana Hodnett again, they proved to be a much-improved side under new coach Sam Jones.
"We weren't really sure what to expect with Ouachita," Sterlington coach Lori Bruscato said. "Last year, we pretty much walked over them, but tonight they were tough and very physical. I told the girls it would probably be a pretty physical game. But we were able to play our game, and I thought that was why we were able to win."
Ouachita had an opportunity to level in the 28th minute, but NyJayla Barnes' volley from the right angle was knocked away by Hodnett and cleared by Emarie Adams.
Sterlington peppered three shots at the net during a short span late in the half only to be denied. Ouachita keeper McKenna Kimball steered away efforts by Emma Grace Brister and Kendal Merrell and took a fierce shot off the body from Sheikh-Khalil to keep the score 2-1.
During the interval, Bruscato called for more passes in an effort to neutralize the Lady Lions' speed.
"They were very fast," Bruscato said. "I told our kids at halftime that we were going to have to put some passes together and go around them because we weren't going to out-run them."
Sterlington earned the first chance of the second half as Abigail Raley's goal-bound shot was batted down by Kimball and cleared by Howell.
Hodnett then made a routine save on Alivia Buckhalter's shot off of a Ouachita counter attack.
Allison Guerriero missed the first half while competing at the state cross country meet in Natchitoches, but arrived in time to give the Lady Panthers a spark over the final 40 minutes. Set up by a throw-in from Lawhon, Guerriero found the back of the net from 10 yards away in the 52nd minute, and scored from five yards out on a breakaway to give Sterlington a commanding 4-1 lead in the 65th minute.
Ouachita's frustration level reached its crescendo four minutes prior to Guerriero's second goal.
Down 3-1, the Lady Lions missed three chances to make it a one-goal game, but a sprawling Hodnett stopped two shots from the ground and a third shot sailed wide of an open net.
Sterlington out-shot the Lady Lions 22-12 while tripling the visitors 15-5 in shots on net.
Bruscato says she will continue to experiment with the Lady Panthers' lineup over the next few weeks.
"Lauren Wright is playing a new position. We are transitioning here to middle defender. She did a great job," Bruscato said. "We started Chandler on defense and moved her up. Shelby Moore started on defense. Whether she stays there or not remains to be seem. It's like a puzzle — we're still trying to fit all the pieces together. Who plays where will depend on who we're playing."
Continuing a four-game homestand, the Lady Panthers open district play at home vs. Vidalia. Kickoff time is 5:30 p.m.
OPHS ............................ SHS
12 ............ Shots ................... 22
5 ............. Shots on target .... 15
5 .............. Corners ................ 3
0 .............. Off sides .............. 3
4 .............. Fouls .................. 2
0 .............. Yellow cards ....... 0