After a couple of off-strategy games that resulted in a win and a loss last week, JV Gold was looking to return to form at conference foe Walnut Hills High School Tuesday afternoon.
Though the weather was typical of Fall in Cincinnati - sunny skies after a day of rain – this particular contest had a different feel about it from the very first whistle.
To the casual observer, the pace of the game would have seemed slower than usual. But smart soccer often appears that way, and it became evident that Turpin was going to play a very intelligent game.
The Spartans immediately showed a preference for quick, short passes to connect defenders, midfielders and forwards. Rather than relying on optimistic balls into space or long dribbling runs to connect with teammates, combination play was the order of the day. Turpin played two-touch or three-touch soccer, especially in the midfield. They consistently displayed both patience and composure, two qualities that have largely been elusive for the Gold team this year.
Walnut Hills was clearly put off-balance by Turpin’s passing game and overall skill level. They spent the majority of their time chasing the ball and rarely ventured deeply into Spartan territory. When they managed to break up a play, or get out in transition, the Turpin reorganized, won possession back and tried again, refusing to settle for the easy lob up the field. The game as a whole lacked the frenetic feel of the last few Gold matches, and overall seemed to build on the last half of the McAuley game a few days earlier, which showed some promising soccer in the second period despite the loss.
In this game, every Spartan had multiple positive touches on the ball, and players from every line had shots on goal. At times, the match resembled a shooting gallery, where the Spartans passed the ball around at the top of the Eagles' box in order to find the right opening. Defender CeCi Malagari just missed high on a couple of missiles from distance. Midfielder Taylor Black put several on frame, and forwards Rachel Goldsmith and Victoria King both hit lasers toward goal, but right at the Walnut Hills keeper, whose steady hands and steady play kept the Eagles in the game.
Taylor Black eventually scored toward the end of the first half after CeCi Malagari lined up behind a direct kick and struck it toward the top of the Eagles eighteen. Victoria King settled the ball, but her shot was well-defended and knocked away. Rachel Goldsmith won the rebound and sent a ball far post where Black was waiting, unmarked in the six-yard box. Her volley put the Spartans ahead 1-0.
In the second half, Walnut Hills ran out of gas. The Spartans continued to press but couldn't find the back of the net. The Eagles managed to clear the ball to a fast forward up top several times, but Turpin's defense locked down and kept the ball out of the penalty box. Spartan keepers Anna McLelland and Emme Ritzenthaler combined to preserve the shutout win.
This was a well-earned team win replete with good-looking, quality soccer. On Thursday, JV Gold gets another chance to show what they're capable of doing on the field when they meet Seton on the West side.