LEWISBURG — The Tri-County North girls soccer team finished with a 1-2 record during the first week of their season.
North opens with 4-1 loss to Preble Shawnee
The Panthers opened their season on Saturday, Aug. 22 with a 4-1 loss to Preble Shawnee.
North started with the ball and for the first 20 minutes, both team were making runs up and down the field with neither having much success at reaching the goal, according to coach Ted Thies.
Sophomore forward Sophia Brunk then raced down a through ball, put a nifty move on a Preble Shawnee defender and slid one past the goalie for her first and North’s first goal of the season.
“Sophia did a nice job tracking down that ball and was very decisive about what she wanted to do with it once she got it,” Thies said. “She wasn’t going to be denied”
Preble Shawnee rallied back to tie the game up when, according to Thies, North’s goalie had a moment of indecision, with the half soon ending tied 1-1.
Coming out of the half, Preble Shawnee immediately started applying the pressure on North.
Thies said that the Panthers played defense for the next ten minutes or so, and the result was two more goals for Preble Shawnee.
“I think early in the second half that we ran out of gas,” he said. “There wasn’t a whole lot of movement or talking. We got a second wind midway through but by then it was too late”
Preble Shawnee added a fourth goal late to make the final 4-1.
Panthers tie up record with 2-1 win over Dixie
After the loss to Preble Shawnee, North evened up their season on Thursday, Aug. 27 with a hard fought 2-1 victory against Dixie.
The Panthers were without junior starting goalie Kenzi Lykins due to a knee injury.
“That left the goal keeping duties to freshman Ava Brunk, and boy was she up to the task,” Thies said. “I don’t know what the exact tally ended up being but I know she had 18 saves by the half, most of them routine, but she pulled the rabbit out of the hat on 4 or 5 saves.”
North started off slow in the first half with not much clicking, according to Thies, the result of which was a sloppy play that led to a Dixie goal with 18 minutes left until the half.
“We were late to the ball, our first touch was off, and when we did get the ball to our feet we were slow and indecisive about what we wanted to do with it,” he said.
Minutes later, North freshman Nicole Lefeld fired one from distance that hit the middle of the crossbar for a near-goal, and two minutes later junior Destiny Simon had a looping shot from distance that bounced over the head of Dixie’s goalie and into the net to tie it up 1-1.
“When Nicole hit hers I thought for sure it was going in,” Thies said. “That was a beauty, and then Destiny hit hers from distance. I was watching it and the whole time was thinking that’s got a chance. It bounced five feet in front of the goalie and right over her hands and into the goal.”
The 1-1 tie would go to the half.
“At the half, coach [Hailey] Petersen and I preached that that had to play quicker, decide quicker and the forwards had to turn and face the goal quicker with the ball on their feet,” Thies said. “We were just way too indecisive in the first half”
North jumped ahead 2-1 five minutes into the second half on a long-range bomb from freshman Natalie Lefeld that went just over the goalie’s hands and just under the crossbar for the first goal of her career.
“Natalie hit that one solid and when she hits them solid, they usually go in,” Thies said. “It would have been real nice had her twin Nicole’s shot not hit the cross bar and gone in earlier. They could’ve had their first high school goals together.”
The rest of the half saw both teams battling; Dixie for the equalizer and North trying to hold on.
North defender Hailey Haines made several key stops late, according to Thies, and goalie Ava Brunk made several amazing saves both on corner kicks and one-on-ones with a breakaway forward.
On the offensive end, North freshmen Sadie Royer took the halftime message of turning and facing the goal to heart and made several runs at the Dixie goal, twice splitting defenders to get there only to be denied by the goalie.
North hung onto their slim lead to the final buzzer for their first win of the season.
“[Thursday’s] game had some unsung heroes girls that stepped up at just the right time,” he said. “I thought freshman Erin Kring did a wonderful job subbing in on defense she saved us several times. Sadie Royer added a spark when we needed it and Jess Isaacs played a solid middle mid tonight for her size she’s fearless. Ava Brunk, who hadn’t played goalie since our select season ended last fall, was amazing. All in all, a satisfying win.”
North suffers close 3-2 loss to Springfield Catholic Central
The Panthers finished their week on Saturday, Aug. 29 with a 3-2 loss to Springfield Catholic Central that went down to the wire.
It was a slow opening half as it took until the 21:01 mark for the first goal to be scored as Catholic Central got on the board first.
In the second half, after a penalty in the box by the Panthers, Catholic Central scored again on a penalty kick at 26:30.
Just minutes later at 20:28, sophomore Jessica Isaacs converted a penalty kick to score North’s only goal of the game and cut the deficit to one goal.
However, at 16:58, Catholic Central added a third goal and was able to run out the clock thereafter.
“I was pretty happy with the way we played today,” Thies said. “I mean, last year, we played this team it was 9-0. So, just keeping them under five was our goal for the day, but we had a chance to win that one. Plenty of opportunities, just didn’t hit the back of the net with it, so I’m proud of the way they played today. They played pretty solid.”
Beyond finding the back of the net, Thies said that spacing will be a focus for the Panthers moving forward.
“We’ve been kind of too close to each other and in each other’s space, so we need to improve on that,” he said.
Ava Brunk played in goal for North again after the injury to Lykins, and Thies said she was marvelous in goal.
“I’ve got no complaints about Ava,” he said. “Like I said, she hadn’t played goalie since select season last year. We conditioned her to be a field player for this year and then she gets thrown into that, so I’m pretty happy with the way she’s playing. Matter of fact, I’m amazingly happy with the way she playing and I just hope she keeps it up.”
North played at Twin Valley South on Monday, Aug. 31, and will play at Newton on Thursday, Sept. 3.
Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @BradenMoles