Coach Jim Abend's focus on possession during training paid off in the first half when JV Gold took on the Lakota East Thunderhawks on Wednesday afternoon at Spartan Stadium. Turpin pressed forward from kickoff, hitting the feet of teammates all over the field, attacking successfully on the flanks and down the middle.
The Spartans scored less than six minutes into the game when defensive midfielder Eva Bowen's refusal to let her player turn off a Lakota throw in forced an errant pass. Kallista Rogers trapped the ball, looked up and spotted forward Victoria King sitting in a seam between two Thunderhawk defenders. Her lofted pass over the defense found King, who gathered the ball, blew by the first defender, cut around the second, and calmly finished the breakaway against the sliding goalie.
Turpin controlled the game throughout the first half. Lakota was unable to pass out of the back, resorting to long clears that sometimes found teammates in black on the Spartans' half of the field. Lakota's offense was relatively more successful at possession, but excellent team defense forced the Thunderhawks to take whatever chances they could get from outside the eighteen.
With eight minutes left in the half, Lakota continued to press for shots. Bowen again challenged for the ball in the midfield. She was able to dispossess a Lakota forward and push the ball back to defender CeCi Malagari. Malagari hit a beautiful diagonal ball to the feet of attacking midfielder Taylor Black, who was running into the Thunderhawks' box. Cut off by a defender, Black laid the ball back and wide to Kallista Rogers, who sent a booming cross far post. Victoria King and Ella Tierney jumped for it, but neither made contact. Tierney hustled out to the corner, turned the ball and sent it back in. A Lakota defender got a foot on the cross, but her deflection was knocked down by King and rocketed into the back of the net for the Spartans' second goal.
The Thunderhawks' best chance to get on the board came in the last minutes of the half. A defensive misclear landed at the feet of a Lakota forward at the top of the penalty box. She immediately launched a hard shot toward goal, but Keeper Emme Ritzenthaler smothered the ball, ending the threat.
It became apparent at the second half kickoff that Lakota had made some adjustments. They held the ball better and were able to pin Turpin in its half for periods of time. Although the Spartans got some chances to shoot in transition, they were unable to put the ball on frame.
Eventually, the Thunderhawks would score on rare free kicks awarded against the Spartans in what was never a very physical game. The first goal came on a long kick from Lakota defensive territory into the box, where a loose striker finished into the upper ninety. The second goal was a direct kick from just outside Turpin's eighteen, also into the upper ninety, for the equalizer.
The game was now a battle where both teams traded possession in an effort to get the go-ahead goal. The Spartans had their best chance to score when center back Sarah Tackett gathered a pass back and found Natalie Wilson in the middle of the field. Wilson sent the ball wide to CeCi Malagari, who played it back to Wilson at the top of the Thunderhawks' box. Only a diving Lakota keeper stopped Wilson's far post shot, just getting a glove on the ball to push it wide. Unfortunately, no Spartan was there for the second chance effort and the defense cleared the ball away.
The Spartans continued to fight for the go-ahead goal. GiGi Bush, who made excellent turns with the ball throughout the game, took on four defenders to win the ball and carry it into Lakota territory. Eventually, the Thunderhawks fouled her, but the resulting kick was snared by the keeper.
In the last minute of the game, a Spartan defensive clear was won by the Thunderhawks and carried across the midfield. Though challenged, the Lakota player was able to kick the ball to a teammate running wide. The ensuing cross bounced in front of the goal and spun into the back of the net for the game winning goal.
The Spartans could only watch as the last six seconds on the clock ticked away. Although the result of the game was disappointing, Turpin's first half play was exciting to watch and promised success as conference play is set to open at Milford.
On the season, JV Gold's record stands at 1-2-1.