by JACKIE HOLLAND-DECKER
The Rockford soccer team was on fire Friday night, April 24, taking 29 shots and a record nine corner kicks against visiting Jenison. Three of the shots went in and many more could have if not for the formidable goal-keeping skills of the Wildcats’ Kelly Hevelhurst, who made 15 saves.
The Rams beat Jenison 3-0 for their sixth shutout of the season. Rockford controlled the action for most of the game, including the last few minutes when Hevelhurst was heard pleading with her teammates to help her out.
“These girls are still hungry for goals,” junior keeper Hevelhurst told her
teammates. “Don’t give up.”
Junior Kate Huyser scored first for the Rams on her second corner kick of the night. Her first corner, just four-and-a-half minutes into the game, found its way to Kayla Knoll, whose header went just wide and was caught by Hevelhurst. Two-and-a-half minutes later, Huyser sent a perfect corner toward the same spot, but it arched at the right time and sailed into the far-side netting.
The Rams, who are 5-2-2, utilized their depth throughout the game, and Jordan Diffenderfer was one of those who came off the bench and proved how strong Rockford really is. Twenty-two minutes into the game, she outran the Jenison defense on a through-ball from Britanni Pierce and let it go with her left, but Hevelhurst made a great save. Not to be denied, she took a big throw-in from Katie Purvis on the edge of the six-yard box, sent it over to Rebekah Hazel on the other side, took the return pass, and drove it home with 33 seconds left in the first half.
Senior Rachel Doud closed out the scoring with 10 minutes left in the game with a shot right in front of the net. The goal was set up by a pass from Pierce in lots of traffic. Doud kicked the ball, which bounced off a Jenison defender, and then kicked it again, sending it on the ground past Hevelhurst.
Also giving Hevelhurst a workout throughout the night were Pierce, Hazel, Matti Graves, Tessa Heeringa, Syd Benda, and Sam Decker.
“She was a great goalie,” said Rockford Coach Amira Ponne. “Otherwise, we would have had at least three more goals. We are playing like a team. When we sub our bench, we are still scoring goals. It’s not about the individual; it’s about the team. We are finding our consistency. We are connecting as a team. Our philosophy has been possession, and they have bought into it. They are making longer passes and more through-balls.”
The Rams controlled the ball the entire game, and the Rockford defense never allowed a single Jenison shot.
On Thursday, April 23, the Rams were disappointed with a 2-2 tie against the visitors from Reeths Puffer. The Rockets got on the scoreboard first when Emily Lindebaum finished a well-placed free kick from Emily Swain right in front of the net 10 minutes into the game. Less than a minute later, the Rams answered back when Benda served it up to Doud right in front of the net, who sent it in past Rockets’ keeper Kelley LeMieux. The Rams took the lead nine minutes later when Huyser broke away from the Rockets’ defense and scored from close range.