By Seth Kinker, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Manchester Lady Dutch Girls Soccer team competed in several contests last week, traveling to Onsted Apr. 23, hosting Lenawee Christian Apr. 26, and traveling to Lansing Christian Apr. 28 to take part in the Pilgrim Invite.
The Lady Dutch defeated Onsted 7-0. Goal scorers for Manchester were junior Avery Collins (2), junior Emma Mrocko (2), sophomore Natalie Bargardi (2), and), junior Julia Johnson (1).
Manchester defeated Lenawee Christian 4-1. Junior Hanna Woods and Bargardi both had early chances for the Lady Dutch. Woods hit the crossbar twice, driving with the ball down the right sideline both times before chipping a ball towards the goal.
With 15 minutes remaining in the first half, Mrocko found Collins in the box for the first goal for the Lady Dutch.
With three minutes remaining in the half, Lenawee Christian was able to get one back, scoring off of a corner kick. In the second half, the Lady Dutch wanted to open up space in the middle of the field to create more chances for their wing players.
With 7:20 remaining Edwards got on the board, followed shortly by sophomore Rylee Spitler the recipient of a Woods pass in the middle before slotting the ball home, followed again by Edwards with 3:49 remaining. The score would end, 4-1.
“I think once we got that second goal we relaxed and were a lot more comfortable on the ball,” said Manchester head coach Travis Baker. “We put a lot of pressure on ourselves, I thought, internally that made the game difficult for us more than anything.”
The Lady Dutch, ranked No. 4 in Division IV, took part in the Pilgrim Showcase which included the No. 3 (Kalamazoo Christian) and No. 1 (Lansing Christian) teams in the state.
Manchester fell against Kalamazoo Christian (3-1), defeated West Michigan Chrisitan (2-0), and fell to Lansing Christian (5-1)
Against Lansing Christian, the Lady Dutch jumped out to an early lead. Around ten minutes in a through ball found junior Rayna Edwards on a counter-attack who scored to put the Lady Dutch up 1-0.
Sophomore goalkeeper Megan Mann had a big save later in the first half, coming out on a Lansing Christian counter in a one on one situation, she slid coming out clearing the ball in the process.
Lansing Christian scored with three minutes left in the half, off of a corner kick that bounced off multiple players before trickling into the back of the net, to make the score 1-1 heading into halftime.
Off the kick-off in the second half, Lansing Christian was able to take the ball down the middle of the field to score a quick goal for the 2-1 lead. Five minutes later Lansing Christian would score on a rebound to make it 3-1.
“It’s a little bit different when you’re going against a team with a D1 athlete that can play up top,” said Baker. “That’s their style. They’re going to get the ball and get it to their forwards and see what happens. For us, it’s just being able to track those types of players and covering them. I thought we did alright defensively. Heavy legs – being the third game doesn’t help, people playing a little out of position. Overall I was happy with the games today.”
Mrocko, normally a midfielder, played center back in the three games on Saturday as starting center back Megan Reppert was missing due to vacation. After the third goal, she had to leave for the remainder of the contest after colliding with an opponent; still, Baker was happy with how she played in the heart of the defense.
“She slid in and did a great job back there,” said Baker. “Club-wise, she’s played as a center back in a four-back system so she’s comfortable playing back there. She’s composed on the ball.”
The Lady Dutch would get a good look with seven minutes left as Spitler passed a ball to Edwards in the middle of the field near the Lansing Christian goal, but she poked it just wide.
Lansing Christian would add two more goals in the final twenty minutes to win 5-1.
One of the goals for this year’s team was to take the next step towards a State title; Lansing Christian has eliminated the Lady Dutch the past two years in regional playoffs.
Baker spoke to The Sun Times about the progress he saw from this weekend and what he spoke to the team about after the loss.
“For us, it’s all about closing the gap,” said Baker. “Continue to try and plug away. I would say we’ve done so; it’s very close at this point. We’re inches off to be fair. If we could have had the ball bounce for us one way we would have been up 2-0. We’re close.”