by JACKIE HOLLAND-DECKER
The contest on March 30 between the Rockford varsity girls soccer team and the visiting Fremont Packers was a mismatch from the start.
First of all, the Rams boast 20 players on the roster; Fremont just pulled up a junior varsity player to round out theirs at 12. Second, the Rams pride themselves in a starting goalie with four years of varsity experience and a back-up goalie who led the team to a district championship last season. The Packers have a sophomore goalie who plays two other sports. Third, the Rams have more speed and skill than the visitors from the north.
But the Packers deserve credit. They came to play and made a game of it, especially in the first half.
After watching Rockford’s junior varsity team mercy the Packers 8-0 in the first half Monday night, the Packers’ fans could only imagine what would happen in the feature game. After all, Fremont originally had Hart on its schedule for the night, a game against more evenly matched opponents. When the Pirates had to cancel and Rockford was looking for an opponent, the Packers acquiesced, knowing they would be the underdog.
Because the junior varsity game ended early, many of the Rockford fans missed much of the first half of the game. What they missed was lots of shots on goal by the Rams with only one-the first one-going in. Junior Kate Huyser lit up the scoreboard 81 seconds into the contest with a shot from the right that sailed past Fremont goalkeeper Kaitlyn Van Boven into the middle of the net.
The Rams’ many other opportunities in that half went wide or high or were batted away or sailed into the waiting hands of Van Boven. In retrospect, the Packers had one shot on goal three minutes into the half. Rockford starting goalkeeper Kristin Darby made an easy save.
“We definitely gave their keeper a workout,” said Rockford’s Coach Amira Ponne. “I thought she did well considering the circumstances and pressure she was under.”
Although the Rams only led 1-0 at the half, Ponne was happy that the girls were taking shots.
“The shots will fall,” she explained. “At this point, I just want them feeling confident about taking the shot. More girls on this team are willing to pass the ball than shoot it, so we need many of them to start getting a little more greedy on that end. We have been working on placement and they have improved in practice.”
In the second half, the Rams became more accurate, and the goals began to come. Sophomore Sydney Benda’s pass to Rachel Doud on the outside right set up the second goal of the night. Doud popped it up over the heads of the defense and the ball sailed into the net to make the score 2-0 with 31:21. Seventy-nine seconds later, Huyser scored again to make the score 3-0. Less than three minutes later, the Rockford barrage continued when Matti Graves attacked from straight on to make the score 4-0 with 27:30 remaining.
Give VanBoven her due, however. She stopped several shots in the remaining minutes, and it wasn’t until Benda put one into the upper 90 from the left outside with 50 seconds remaining that the scoring onslaught was over.
“During the second half, we definitely maintained possession 90 percent of the time,” said Ponne. “When we maintain possession, the goals do come. Our passing looked great and so did our movement on the attack in the second half.”