Despite a gritty finish by Carl Junction, the Joplin soccer team staved off the Bulldogs late to defend its home field for a 2-1 victory at Joplin High School on Tuesday night.

The Eagles held a two-goal lead for most of the second half before Carl Junction’s Couper Manning trimmed the deficit to one with an unassisted goal in the 70th minute.

“We talked about it at halftime and told our guys that if we showed them any little light of day, they would be on us,” Joplin coach Josh Thompson said. “And that’s exactly what happened. They got that goal in, and those last 10 minutes or so were just a barrage.”

The Bulldogs had two more opportunities to tie the game in the final 10 minutes but came up empty-handed. The first scoring chance saw Camryn Simon get called offsides on a 1-on-1 breakaway toward the Joplin net. The next saw Manning miss just high on a shot from about 5 yards out.

“The ball came across and I thought Couper was going to beat the keeper and tuck it in, but a defender was right there with him and applied some good pressure on the shot,” Bulldogs coach Ed Miller said. “So it wasn’t like he was just wide open. I think the defender got a little piece of him when he was taking the shot, and the shot went high a bit.

“I’m proud of the effort our kids gave and how we didn’t quit. We took some pride in ourselves and played till the end. Something we were kind of lacking last year was our ability to finish out games. I think this year we’re a different group of guys. We’re trying to play hard till the final whistle, and that showed in the way we finished tonight.”

Joplin, which improved to 2-0 on the season, outshot the Bulldogs 15-5. Three of Carl Junction’s shots came in the final 15 minutes.

“Having that 2-0 lead obviously helped,” Thompson said. “We were playing pretty well and controlling the time of possession, and fortunately we were able to put a couple shots in the back of the net.”

Ironically, Joplin’s first goal came from a defender. In the 15th minute, Landon Vowels, a senior, caught a pass just beyond midfield and then drilled a hard right-to-left shot past a leaping CJ goalkeeper and into the top-left corner of the net.

“Landon Vowels is not normally a guy we look to for scoring,” Thompson said. “But his goal put us in a great place. That’s a once-every-four-years type of thing, for a senior to be making a goal from near midfield.”

Sophomore midfielder Dilan Sanchez added to the Joplin lead early in the second half, dribbling through a pair of Bulldog defenders and finishing just in front of the goal for a 2-0 Eagles lead in the 55th minute.

“Dilan showed off a lot of skill on that play,” Thompson said. “He was 2-on-1 inside the box and dribbled them to death until he was able to get his shot off with his right foot. And he’s actually left-footed. So we were encouraged to see him use his nondominant foot there.

“We had a lot of pressure and a lot of chances outside of those two goals, and that was just as encouraging to see,” Thompson said. “Like I said, we had the advantages for most of the game in possession and aggression. Obviously, though, one thing we’d like to improve on is finishing in the last 10 minutes. We had chances to really take the air away from Carl Junction, but we let them back into it late.”

Joplin goalkeeper Josh Harryman, a junior, tallied one save while Carl Junction’s Dalton Carey recorded six.

Joplin returns to play on Sept. 10 at home against Carthage. Carl Junction hits the road on Thursday to take on Parkview at 6:30.

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