Ozark’s 6-0 whipping of Branson on Tuesday saw Peyton Lane help the Lady Tigers record what had been an ever so elusive first shutout, while netting what had been an even more elusive first goal for herself.
Lane shined at both ends of the field, as Ozark’s makeshift defense enjoyed its best night in the Lady Tigers’ 6-6-1 start to their season.
Injuries have hounded Ozark, sidelining defender Ava Scott and goalkeeper Emily Freeman.
“We’ve constantly been moving people around to see what works,” coach Chris Shull said. “We had to re-organize everything when key injuries hit us. But our defenders have stepped up. They’re doing very well and starting to click.
"Credit to them. They’re keeping it positive and making it work.”
Lane has been as responsible for the Lady Tigers staying competitive defensively as anyone. In Scott’s absence, she has emerged as the team's captain on the defensive side of the field.
“I had to step up in Ava’s position,” Lane said. “She was always our mom on the field. She helped us be organized. It’s been a great leading role for me. I can help the underclassmen who have stepped up and been wings back there with me.
“It’s been a great learning opportunity for me,” she added. “I’ve gotten to learn how to be a constructive leader, while being positive and not being negative and harsh on myself and my teammates.”
Lane was only moved to defense last season. She quickly embraced the change.
“At sweeper, I’m the very last line of defense,” she said. “It’s a weight on my shoulders. My teammates have done a good job of helping and I take pride in my back-line.”
“We saw some things in her that we thought she could contribute back there,” Shull said. “She deserves props. She’s held our defense together.”
Scott, who suffered a partially torn ACL in the pre-season, is due to return to action next week in time for Senior Night against Neosho. Freeman is awaiting word on whether she suffered a broken clavicle last week, in addition to a separated shoulder.
Laney Burks received clearance to play last week after recovering from a severely sprained ankle. She promptly replaced Freeman at ‘keeper.
Burks followed up Ozark’s shutout of Branson by holding Harrison, Arkansas, to one goal in a 1-all tie Wednesday.
“Honestly, I wasn’t expecting us to be a strong defensive team,” midfielder Shannon Murphy said. “But they have all come through and shown their versatility. Most of the players on our back line don’t normally play defense. They have stuck it out and played amazing. We’ve been able to stay in a lot of games because of them.”
Murphy and Jadyn Easley both scored two goals against Branson. Emmy Pierson and Lane completed the night’s scoring. Lane was appreciative of the chance to return to the offensive side of the field in the late stages.
“It was a cool opportunity to move up and people take my spot (defensively) in a game like this,” Lane said. “I could show off my skills a little bit."