The Spartans met cross-township rival McNicholas on Saturday afternoon, September 9th, at Spartan Stadium. After showing off some moments of beautiful, possession-style soccer in its previous two games - both disappointing losses - JV Gold was looking to win, however they could manage it.
Only minutes after kickoff, Turpin got its first chance on goal. Kallista Rogers split the defense with a through ball into space for Victoria King. With King bearing down, the McNick goalie charged out and challenged for the fifty-fifty ball, causing a collision and drawing a foul. Though it ended in a frustrating call against the Spartans, the two players literally going toe-to-toe showed fans what to expect out of the rest of the game.
Up until the midpoint of the first half, both teams held possession equally, and neither could put a ball on frame. Then, helped by its hard-nosed back line, the Spartans gained and held the upper hand. Turpin used every offensive weapon in its arsenal – with balls over the top and through into space, long throw-ins and short stints of passing - but was ultimately unable to find its forwards near goal.
To its credit, McNick's defense stood its ground. The Rockets’ centerbacks consistently ran down Turpin's long passes into space and generally disrupted its connections up top. Though midfielder Ella Tierney was repeatedly able to beat her defender down the flank, the Rockets’ plucky keeper came to the rescue, cutting off her crosses into the box.
At half, the game remained tied at 0-0.
While the Rockets started with the ball at the second half kickoff, Turpin quickly regained and kept possession.
Ella Tierney persisted in being a thorn in the Rockets' side. She made several runs down the right flank that McNick turned away before harassing her defender into giving up a corner kick. On the ensuing kick, Tierney hit Cate Ward in the goal box, but Ward's one-touch attempt was caught point-blank by the Rockets' keeper.
The Spartans could smell a goal coming, and only leaned harder on the direct style of play they’d adopted for the day.
With 15 minutes left in the game, midfielder Amanda Austin just missed breaking the game open. A McNick foul resulted in a direct kick that she banged off the crossbar. The shot ricocheted off the post to Ceci Malagari, whose header was saved by the McNick keeper.
Turpin kept up the attack, its defense bombarding the Rockets' defense with long balls and through balls, while McNick managed to carry the ball into Spartan territory in transition. Determined pressure by Turpin's centerbacks and central midfielders stalled the Rockets' offense, preventing them from putting any shots on frame. McNick’s best chances to score came as a result of Spartan fouls committed some distance from goal. The Rockets’ kicks sailed harmlessly over the defensive line, and into the waiting arms of Turpin keeper Emme Ritzenthaler.
With time running out, Rachel Goldsmith, subbing in at forward, capitalized on what appeared to be a miscommunication between Rockets defenders. Kallista Rogers sent a through ball in behind that neither center back moved toward. Goldsmith cut between them, pounced on the ball and tucked her 1v1 effort neatly inside the far post for what would be the lone goal of the match.
Keepers Emme Ritzenthaler and Anna McLelland combined for the Spartan shutout.
Facing down a determined Rockets team and desperate to put one in the win column, the Spartans did what they had to do to come out on top. It wasn't necessarily pretty, but the Turpin girls displayed a will to win that bodes well for the second half of their season.