In a highly competitive game at Hiland High School, the Lady Hawks soccer team hosted a top-tier team in the River View Black Bears on Tuesday, Aug. 28.
In an evenly matched game, it took one sensational play by the Black Bears to score a terrific goal and eke out a 1-0 victory.
“That’s a tough one. I told the girls that it is one that we definitely wanted, but I was proud of them how hard they fought from start to finish against one of the better teams we will face this year,” Hiland head coach Conner Lee said.
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The two teams played to a scoreless tie through the first half as neither team could muster a whole lot of good looks.
However, in the 67th minute River View created a goal when they got loose down the right side, where the ball was played to Claire Warschauer near the end line. Warschauer headed toward the goal as Hiland keeper Abbey Beach came at her, but rather than fire off a 50/50 shot, Warschauer astutely found teammate Lexi Fry wide open as she came streaking in from above the 18. Fry took the pass and easily deposited it into the back of the net for the game’s lone goal.
River View head coach David Kridler saw the beauty of that goal and said that while his team has generated some great looks this season, they have struggled to finish, so seeing them put together a beautiful play like that was encouraging.
“We had been isolating ourselves at times tonight, and it was going to take a nice pass like that to get something accomplished, and it was a beautiful pass. Claire actually started the game on the right side, but we moved her into the middle because of her ability to create, and she can use her speed, so that switch worked out well.”
As the Lady Hawks frantically tried to crawl back into it with an equalizer, they kept looking for speedy forward Lexi Raber, but River View has hung its hat on defense all season long and took away the long ball quite well, forcing Hiland to find other alternatives. While it did create a couple of opportunities, Hiland was never able to get off a serious attempt.
“We really pride ourselves on defense,” Kridler said. “We have a defense-first mentality, and we have some really nice talent back there with kids who understand the game. It all kind of starts with our center-back Hailie Bowman. Our kids really listen to her and respond to her because she sees the game so well and communicates so well.”
Lee said that despite the loss, this game could be used as a building block and a measuring stick because they had played a team he felt was one of the best on their schedule to within one goal.
“They are a great team, and we competed with them,” Lee said. “It’s a good learning experience for us, and they presented a lot of challenges for us.”
With the loss the Lady Hawks fell to 2-1 while the Black Bears advanced to 3-0-1 on the year. Beach ended the game with five saves while Kendra Shetler was perfect in net in the first half for Hiland with two saves.
Lee said he was especially pleased with the team’s defensive effort that limited River View to just eight shots.
“That’s the first goal we have given up in three games, so if we can continue to give that kind of effort, we should do well,” Lee said. “For a team with a high-caliber offense like they have, to allow just the one goal is a great effort by our defense.”
Lee had especially high praise for the defensive duo of Nikki Yoder and Kara Kornhaus, who played a huge role in limiting River View’s healthy attack.
“They were everywhere tonight,” Lee said. “Nikki is big and strong and fast and covers a lot of ground back there as our defensive leader. I think Liz Troyer has been giving us some really nice play at holding mid too. She has done a nice job challenging for balls, and she has been everywhere.”
Lee said of his team’s early effort through three games that each win and each good effort helps build a winning mentality for his crew. “We are playing hard, but the kids are enjoying it, and we are getting the mentality that we can play and compete with good teams, and that has been fun to watch.”