Riley McClintock’s first start at goalkeeper since suffering a concussion nearly a month ago and Nixa’s first home match in nearly a year didn’t produce the passionate play the Lady Eagles expected.

Nixa (5-5) was blanked by St. Joseph’s Academy 2-0 Saturday. It was the Lady Eagles’ second setback in as many days in the Kickapoo Shootout and their third time being shut out this season.

Shots on goal were rare for the hosts and the ball was on St. Joseph’s side of the field the great majority of the time.

“It seemed like they wanted it way more than we did,” Nixa forward Erica Hartley said. “Nobody stepped in front of anybody for the ball. It seemed like we held back.”

“We didn’t want it,” added McClintock, who made her initial return for the Lady Eagles in the second half of Friday’s 2-1 loss to Liberty North. “No one wanted to get the ball out of the air. I don’t know how many times we told each other to get there first. We were having a hard time today.”

Nixa coach Evan Palmer thought his players got a good idea what soccer in suburban St. Louis and Kansas City is about.

“Those teams are so good at seeing the field and anticipating,” Palmer said. “It gets them to the ball that much quicker. We hesitated a few times and hesitation loses you the ball. We don’t get that kind of competition day in and day out that Kansas City and St. Louis does. It’s going to make us better.”

St. Joseph’s Academy broke a 0-0 tie with a goal 16 minutes into the second half and clinched its win a second goal with 1:30 to play.

Nixa’s only shot on goal in the second half saw Hartley take the ball downfield and beat a St. Joseph’s Academy defender for a clear look at the goal. She booted the ball strongly with her left foot, but the goalkeeper snagged it. 

“I should have passed it on the ground,” Hartley said. “But I panicked and kicked it in the air.”

Hartley added she didn’t think she actually had the option to pass the ball.

“Everybody was hanging back,” she said. “We needed people to push up and help once in a while. We need to push up more, talk more and when the forwards get the ball everybody needs to push up together and not jog up, but sprint.”

McClintock had a busy afternoon and was up to the challenge by turning away St. Joseph’s Academy for the first 56 minutes. It was a commendable effort for a player essentially in pre-season mode.  

“She’s mad at herself for missing the second goal,” Palmer said. “But it was a good shot, right in the corner. I know if she was 100 percent, though, that’s probably a save. She’s working her way back. It’s almost like she’s back in February again.”

McClintock had been idle since getting kicked in the face by a Glendale player March 19 and suffering her third concussion.

“I came out (of the box) and got the ball, a girl had two steps (to stop), but she didn’t stop and kneed me right under my cheekbone,” McClintock said. “My head reared back and hit the turf. It wasn’t good.”

Her recovery was grueling, as well. 

“It was prolonged since I had two (concussions) prior to this one and I think this one was more severe than the concussions I had before,” McClintock said. “I had constant, annoying headaches for 19 days. It was tough to deal with.”

McClintock admits the idea of hanging up her cleats was a scenario she considered. Her previous concussions occurred when another player kicked her in the head and when she took a kicked ball to a side of her head.

“I’m worried about getting hurt again,” she said. “It’s pretty scary since that was my third concussion and you never know what’s going to happen. I’m trying to protect myself so I don’t get hurt again. 

“I thought about (quitting). But I would feel guilty, leaving my team. I want to be here for them.”

Nixa had played 14 straight matches on the road or on a neutral field dating back to May 3 of last year due largely to maintenance work on its home turf this spring. The Lady Eagles are back on the road Wednesday at Ozark (7-6-2).

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