The Lady Spartans squared off with a fierce Lakota West Firebirds squad last Saturday morning. Both teams exhibited exceptional skills, high energy and smart strategy, resulting in a low-scoring, 72-minute, midfield grind wherein any offensive breakout run could have resulted in a game-winner.
As with many evenly matched opponents, long periods of time passed as midfielders and defenders worked tirelessly to gain and maintain possession with an eye toward squeezing the ball out of the middle to create scoring opportunities. Yet neither team was able to consistently burst into offensive posture since the opposition kept disrupting the flow. Defensive standouts for the Spartans captain Rachel Heis, Mimi Pinckney, Maggie Moore, and Emma Smith held their own against Lakota’s relentless attempts to wiggle through the back line early in the match.
The first player highlight occurred 11 minutes into the game when Lakota West delivered a strong free kick that was saved by Turpin’s uber-talented goalkeeper, Molly Glandt. Twelve minutes later, Spartan captain Reilly Flora chipped a promising shot that just missed the left post. At the 6-minute mark, captain Cara Hauserman directed a sliding shot on goal that hit the right post. A Firebird midfielder drove 40 yards through our crew and sliced a nice shot on goal, which was enveloped by Molly Glandt.
Amanda Austin, Claire Bailey, Gigi Bush, Kayla Jones, Kate Muscatello, Kallista Rogers, Ella Tierney and Sophie Welsh were ALL working hard to generate looks on goal. Kate Muscatello continued to impress with her accurate, well-paced lead passes. Taylor Black and Mimi Pinckney successively sprinted and tackled dangerous runs on goal.
At this point in the match, the Firebirds settled down and maintained ample ball possession in the middle third. They found an opening and a drove a high shot just under the crossbar from 20 yards out, netting a 1-0 Lakota lead.
With 20 seconds left in the half, Rachel Heis placed the ball 60 yards from Turpin’s net and lifted a free kick into the Spartans front line, but the Firebirds deflected our attempt for a game-tying shot.
At halftime, Head coach Jim Abend set the horizon for the Lady Spartans, reminding them they have come from behind to even a match 6 times this season.
The second half began with a burst of activity for the Spartans with Reilly Flora displaying exceptional footwork, including two successful executions of her favorite Maradona move, earning a corner for the Spartans. This highlight was followed by a 20-minute period of back-and-forth play with both defensive lines holding off any shots that even had a glimmer of chance to score.
Turpin regained their poise and played the last 11 minutes left in the match in true Spartan Strong style. Kayla Jones dispossessed a Firebird player of the ball so quickly she was left spinning round. Cara Hauserman broke away from the crowd and drove a laser shot over the crossbar from the right. Minutes later she laced another attempt into the gut of the Firebirds goalie for a save. At six minutes left, Isabel Shim took a pass from Skylar Huster and lifted a great shot which was just saved by a leaping goalie. At 6 minutes left, freshman Ella Tierney drove the right side and lifted a strong, arching shot that barely missed the top left corner of the frame. The energy in the crowd and on the field escalated with the renewed Spartans attack. Finally, Isabel Shim made a nice move and touched a pass to Skylar Huster who curled an outside-left-footer, right to left, past a diving Lakota goalie, just inside the left frame for the match equalizer. Skylar’s goal tied the score 1-1 with just a few minutes left in the contest.
#17 Skylar Huster, #13 Gigi Bush, #14 Rachel Heis, #12 Kayla Jones, and #9 Ella Tierney in action
The game-winner looked imminent for the Spartans when, with 60 seconds left, Ella Tierney passed to Cara Hauserman, whose shot deflected off the goalie upward and just 3 yards from the far left post. Isabel Shim sprang high in an effort to head the ball clear of the Firebird’s goalie. Her header nearly glanced the back post as it carried out of bounds, capping a thrilling end to the match.
This season’s extraordinary tally of 9 tied matches more than doubles the 2007 Ladies JV Gold Soccer team record of 4 tied matches. As a result of this latest tie, the Spartans can fairly state they have lost just 1 of their 15 matches this season.
Turpin JV Gold season record moves to: 5 wins, 1 loss and 9 ties. Their ECC League record is 2-1-2.
All photos courtesy of Aimee Heis.