By Seth Kinker, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Manchester Lady Dutch Soccer team continued to play up to its No. 3 rank in the state last week, winning both contests.
May 7 they hosted the Grass Lake Warriors, winning 5-0 to sweep the series. Sophomore midfielder Natalie Bargardi and junior midfielder Rayna Edwards each had two goals while sophomore midfielder Rylee Spitler scored the other.
May 9 the Lady Dutch swept the season series with the Columbia Central Golden Eagles, winning 4-2 to move to 12-2 while keeping a perfect 8-0 record in the Independent Soccer League (ISL).
Manchester possessed out of the gate, giving the Golden Eagles few chances on offense, and had opportunities themselves but no great looks on goal.
“We wanted to pressure them early and thought we did a good job to keep the ball in their end more of the half,” said Manchester head coach Travis Baker.
Over halfway into the first half, junior midfielder Rayna Edwards got a good look in the box, a low shot that Golden Eagle senior goalkeeper Natalie Tyndall had to give to save. Two minutes later, junior midfielder Emma Mrocko, in her first game back from an injury sustained on Apr. 28 against No. 1 ranked Lansing Christian, had a shot from the left side that Tyndall had to jump to save from going in.
Continuous Lady Dutch pressure led to their first goal with 17:02 left in the first half, junior midfielder Hannah Woods made it past two defenders on the right wing, she found junior forward Avery Collins right at the six-yard box. She was marked with her back to the goal but was able to turn and score, slotting her shot low and to the left to give the Lady Dutch a 1-0 lead.
Five minutes later, Edwards found Mrocko unmarked on the weak side, but she barely hit the ball over the crossbar. Then a few minutes later, Mrocko found Edwards in the box to make it 2-0 Manchester.
Mrocko finished with two assists, returning to the field in a variety of positions.
“She’s very versatile,” said Baker on Mrocko’s impact and return to the field. “She’s played five positions this year so far and can play anywhere on the field. It was good to have her back, she adds so much to our attack but is just as important defensively. We will lean on her as we get deeper into the state playoffs to help shore us up on both ends.”
At halftime the discussion centered on transitioning back on defense, Tyndall would look to play the long ball immediately after a save, trying to spark a Golden Eagle counter attack.
In the second half the Lady Dutch picked up where they left off, E. Mrocko had another good high shot four minutes in forcing a save. Then with 34:19 in the second half, E. Mrocko notched her second assist, crossing the ball from the left side. The ball somehow made it all the way through the box to the opposite side and Woods was there to hit the ball in for the 3-0 lead.
With 29:23 the Golden Eagles would get one back, scoring off of a rebound from a free kick that hit the crossbar, but with 8:23 Edwards would put the game out of reach, finishing a corner kick from sophomore defender Mikayla Ball by heading it into the net.
The Golden Eagles would get one more goal off of a penalty kick, but the final score was be 4-2.
The No. 3 Lady Dutch, 12-2 (8-0), have two more conference games against Onsted (5/14) and Lenawee Christian (5/17) then a May 21 meeting with Clinton before their crossover game on May 24.
The Lady Dutch open District play on May 31 at 6pm at home against Hanover-Horton.