Building a successful soccer program is a long haul. There are perennial stumbling blocks in that opponent you can never seem to beat or in the post-season when you never quite live up to your own expectations.
The Community School (2-1-1) girls' soccer team cleared a major hurdle Saturday, playing McCall-Donnelly (3-2-1) to a 1-1 draw at Sagewillow Farm in Elkhorn.
Under the guidance of coach Lex Bernstein, McCall is a perennial state qualifier, winning the 3A title in 2001 and 2002 and claiming consolation championships (fifth place) in 2003 and 2004.
In two meetings in 2004 and 2005, the Cutthroats failed to score a goal (not counting an "own goal") against McCall, falling 4-0 and 3-1.
With past defeats clinging to her conscious, Sun Valley coach Kelly Feldman was understandably delighted with her team's latest performance against the Vandals.
"I was thrilled with our effort," she said. "To know we can play at that level of intensity with a team of that caliber is a big step up for us."
In previous contests, McCall always set the tempo, controlled the ball and kept the Cutthroats on their heels.
Not this time.
The Lady Cutthroats were equal to the task Saturday, with senior Mandy Alexander scoring the game's opening goal at the 10-minute mark. Playing left wing, Alexander lofted a high shot into the far right corner through the keeper's hands.
"It was a really even first half and we played really well as a team," Feldman remarked.
Up 1-0 Sun Valley stumbled in the opening minutes of the second half.
Feldman recounted, "We came out flat. Every touch was off and we could not do anything right. I think we were tired both mentally and physically."
McCall notched the equalizer, almost identical to the goal Alexander scored, but the Cutthroats rallied in the final 20 minutes to emerge with a 1-1 tie.
"We had a lot of opportunities and their keeper had some good saves. It was a very even back and forth game," Feldman said. "Historically, it has always been a very defensive game for us. Today we were a threat offensively."
Cutthroat goalkeeper Kathryn Farmer (9 saves) had a very solid performance between the pipes, but was even more valuable playing high in the box and cutting off several would-be scoring chances.
"She played a very aggressive high position. Exactly what we needed her to do," Feldman said.
Next up for the Cutthroats: the Minico Spartans at home Wednesday and Wendell away on Monday.