by JACKIE HOLLAND-DECKER
“Shots don’t win games; goals do.”
That apropos comment, made last week by an observant parent at a Rockford varsity girls soccer game, is one lesson Coach Amira Ponne will be reinforcing in practice and competition this week. If the team doesn’t get the ball into the back of the net, the Rams won’t win.
“If we would take shots, the goals could happen,” said Ponne, as she reflected on last week’s 1-1 tie to Reeths Puffer Wednesday and a 1-0 loss to West Ottawa Friday night. “How do we constantly keep possession of the ball and not win? The forwards must score. Everyone else is doing their part. The forwards have to do their job. All they have to do is score goals.”
The Rams have been outshooting their opponents all season, and they maintain possession of the ball the majority of the time. Finding the back of the net has been hard, however.
“No one is scoring even though we have the best scoring capability,” said Ponne. “They must find it within themselves to get over this.”
In the game at Reeths Puffer, the Rams outshot the Rockets 18-6, but their only goal came from a penalty kick scored by Syd Benda early in the second half. Tripped in the box, she stepped up and took the shot, putting it into the right corner to tie the game.
Co-captain Kate Huyser, who leads the team in scoring this year, took the first shot of the game for the Rams seven minutes into the match, but her shot, like many others, hit the crossbar and bounced away. The Rams had several corner kicks that they didn’t finish either, and more than one direct kick didn’t find its way into the net.
“We were a better team, but we hit the crossbar I don’t know how many times,” said Huyser.
The loss was not all negative, however. The Rams walked off the field without any injuries, which led the girls and their parents to sighs of relief after playing the dangerously aggressive Rockets.
“I was just happy no one got hurt,” said Huyser. “They were a rough team and we only had two refs and they couldn’t see everything.”
On Friday, West Ottawa spoiled the Rams’ Senior Night with one goal with 23:47 remaining in the game when sophomore Haley Lohman put the ball in from 20 yards out.
The last time the two OK Red conference foes met was last year, when the Rams defeated the Panthers in a shootout after two overtimes in the district finals. As the seniors were announced Friday night to the sparse crowd braving the wind, 40-degreee temperatures and rain, many of the girls’ “biographies” being announced said that their favorite soccer memory was beating West Ottawa in that shootout. This proved to be powerful motivation for the Panthers on their way to handing the Rams their first league loss.
“Talk about fuel,” said Ponne, who added that the Panthers had lost to East Kentwood 5-0 recently and had something to prove from that as well.
“They are a good team,” added Huyser. “Their defense showed up and played well. They capitalized on their opportunities, and we had a couple not go our way.”