In a convincing season-opening win over Central DeWitt on Tuesday night, the Muscatine girls soccer team left little doubt in the outcome from the early going.
But the Muskies also sensed some untapped potential that they'll try to unlock as the season progresses.
Muscatine spent little time on defense throughout the match, but turned a couple early counter attacks into goals, spurring a 6-0 defeat of the Sabers at the Muscatine Soccer Complex.
The victory was the first win for new Muscatine head coach Jose Espinoza, whose attacking 4-3-3 formation was impressive in the Muskies' first contest.
"At halftime, we talked about how we were pressuring (Central DeWitt) most of the time while they had maybe nine players in the box," Espinoza said. "So we wanted to drop the ball a little more and open the field, and that worked, we scored a couple goals there."
Each of the Muskies' first two scores came when Sophia Thomas found space at midfield after the Muscatine defense won possession. The junior mid-fielder found an open teammate both times with lob passes over the Central DeWitt defense.
"It feels good to be back with this team, it feels like its been forever," Thomas said. "I think we're going to be a really good team."
The first goal was put away by junior Perla Rios, the second by Meredith Connor.
"We have a really good midfield," said Espinoza. "They work really well together and connect with (their teammates)."
Connor, also a junior, added a second goal — the game's last score — in the 75th minute.
Connor also connected with Thomas for the first Muskie score of the second half, which came in the 44th minute.
Almost a minute later, Thomas nearly added her second goal when she drove it over the Saber keeper but drilled the crossbar.
"We're going to strive to get better with our shots. Right now we're getting good shots, but we need to finish more," said Thomas. "Our through balls were there, our wings going outside and our forwards making the runs were good."
Muscatine's fourth and fifth goals both came via the foot of sophomore Kaitlyn Holmes. Those came in the 58th and 68th minutes.
At the half, the Muskies (1-0) switched goalkeepers, with Indiana Stephens playing the first half but seeing no opportunities for saves as the Muskies held the advantage.
Abigail Rhoades replaced Stephens in the second half and made two saves as Central DeWitt found a bit more offensive success late in the game as Muscatine held a sizable lead.
Despite the half-dozen scores, Muscatine had plenty of opportunities to pile on more. The Muskies had 18 shots on goal in total and also had chances on several corner kicks, of which Muscatine had 14 while Central DeWitt (0-1) had none.
It was the first girls soccer contest for the Sabers as a member of the Mississippi Athletic Conference. Central DeWitt previously played in the WAMAC-East.
The Muskies also committed three offsides in the first eight minutes of the second half that, if a violation was avoided, would have at least led to more scoring opportunities, if not more goals.
"The girls did a really good job tonight," said Espinoza. "They played hard and with high intensity, but we still need to continue to work on our finishing."