Rockford Girls Soccer

Rockford girls soccer overcomes sorrow to succeed

May 6, 2010 // 0 Comments

by JACKIE HOLLAND-DECKER Sorrow played a heavy hand against the Rockford girls soccer team in the last two weeks, but for those 80 minutes out on the field, the Rams were able to overcome their grief and play great soccer. They won two of their three games in the midst of their despair, and even their loss felt like a victory. Reeling from the death of popular Freshman Center health teacher Jan Egbert two weeks ago, the ninth-graders and others who had known her were downcast, but with the help of their teammates, they easily defeated OK Red rival Jenison 7-0 on April 23. Last week Wednesday, April 28, as the pain of that death was lifting, the Rams played a terrific game against Class B leader Spring Lake, holding them to a 1-1 tie until just three minutes remained before losing 2-1. Euphoric after that loss which felt like a win, the Rams went home happy, but their joy soon turned to mourning again when they learned of the unexpected death of senior Stephen May, a three-sport athlete and all-round good guy. When the girls took the field Friday night, April 30, against league rival Grand Haven, their distress was evident. They picked each other up, however, and beat the visiting Buccaneers 2-1 to put their league record at 3-0. “We were still trying to heal from Jan’s death and now this,” said Coach Amira Ponne, as she exited the field. “With all of the tragedy in the last two weeks, they’ve been through a lot, but it has made us stronger. The girls love each other so much. They are such a special group of girls. The seniors are so tight; they have played with each other forever. The freshmen cared so much to see their mentors upset. They stepped up support-wise.” Grand Haven has always been a conference rival for the Rams, but Friday night, they were the least of the team’s worries. The Rams went in wanting to win and get the game over with. Under the circumstances, they played quite well, dominating the shooting (15-7) and controlling the ball for much of the game. They passed well. They communicated, and they scored. “I think that part of it [success] is […]

Rockford girls soccer takes lessons learned from losses to beat Jenison

April 29, 2010 // 0 Comments

by JACKIE HOLLAND-DECKER The clouds were gray and foreboding Friday night as the Rockford girls soccer team warmed up at Jenison High School, but the weather had nothing to do with the impending storm. The Rams were on a rampage, and the Wildcats were unprepared. After losing miserably 4-1 to their previous two opponents, non-league foes Petoskey and Caledonia, the Rams had come to win. “In the huddle with the starters before the game, I told them ‘I am sick of losing,’” said senior tri-captain Sam Decker. “I said, ‘I am dead serious. We are not going to lose this game.’” Decker was so confident of the impending win that she even told a Wildcats fan of her certainty. When asked by a Jenison student before the game if she was 98 percent sure Rockford would win, she told him that she was 100 percent sure. The Rams weren’t being cocky, however. They just knew it was time to prove that they were better than their previous two games. “I felt a big W coming on,” said Coach Amira Ponne. “I knew we were going to come out and shine. I hope we can keep doing this and find our groove.” Using the entire roster, the Rams outshot the host Wildcats 21-2 in the 7-0 shutout. The OK Red victory puts them at 2-0 in the league, 3-3 overall. Jenison is now 2-3-2. The Rams were up 2-0 at halftime and 4-0 seven minutes into the second half, allowing Ponne to sub liberally and try some different strategies. “It’s not like we were trying to run up the score with all of my starters,” said Ponne. “We had all of our non-starters in at the end. We are still trying to figure out what is the best team to put on the field. We tried some things against Jenison.” One of the strategies the Rams tried in the game was a flat-back four defense instead of the flat-back three they had been using previously. The flat-back four gave them more stability in the backfield, something they needed against Caledonia and Petoskey, but didn’t try because of their inexperience with it. Midway through the Jenison game, Ponne switched it back, however, because she realized they didn’t […]

Rockford girls soccer ousted by Portage Central in regional opener

June 11, 2009 // 0 Comments

Captain Kayla Knoll (#18) outplays her Mustang opponent. Photo by BRET DOUD by JACKIE HOLLAND-DECKER In the Bible, the little shepherd boy David slays the mighty Goliath with nothing but a slingshot and a heap of faith. The Rockford girls soccer team had the faith, but their skills were no match for Portage Central, the top-ranked team in Division I. The Mustangs ended the Rams’ tournament run June 2 with a decisive 4-1 victory in the regional opener at East Kentwood. “They are the best high school team I have ever seen,” said Rockford Coach Amria Ponne. “They could beat many small college teams. I can take a loss to a team that is that great.” The Rams were well-prepared for the Mustangs and knew their weaknesses. While watching game film from Portage Central’s district win, a handful of the Rams evaluated what they needed to do to win. What they didn’t know was that the Mustang’s speed, coupled with their sharp passes and great ball-handling, would be too much to overcome. The Mustangs struck early on their way to victory. Sophomore Charlie Socia scored the first of her four goals just six-and-a-half minutes into the game. Rockford’s Samantha Decker headed the cross from Portage Central’s Mara Bennett away from the goal, but Socia got the rebound, snuck in behind the defense, took advantage of the chaos in front of the net, and shot it in from close proximity. Rockford goalie Kristin Darby never had a chance. That became the story throughout the game: textbook perfect crosses or short passes in front of the net with Socia always taking advantage of frenzied activity in the box to finish. Four different Mustangs assisted on her goals. “They are very fast and great ball handlers,” said Ponne. “They play beautifully together. They always know where each other is, especially 23 [Socia] and 25 [Paige Wester]. “They are pretty tough to stop, and I would say impossible to shut out. No matter how great our defense is, No. 23 or 25 is going to score. When they have a chance to score and you think ‘this should go in,’ it’s in.” The Rams scored their lone goal 1:28 into the second half. Decker received the pass from Lyndsey […]

Rockford girls soccer wins district title in shootout thriller

June 4, 2009 // 0 Comments

by JACKIE HOLLAND-DECKER Talk about pressure! After playing 110 intense, scoreless minutes of soccer-including two 15-minute overtimes-against host West Ottawa in the district title game Friday night, May 29, the Rams needed to outshoot the Panthers at point-blank range to call the title theirs. Assistant coach Scott Hazel, using an abandoned envelope from a greeting card, quickly jotted down the names of five players from the Rams’ roster of 22 to take the shots. Hazel was shaking so badly that his handwriting was barely decipherable. Meanwhile, four-year goalkeeper Kristin Darby-who has been nursing a sore shoulder since Wednesday’s 5-0 shutout against Hudsonville in the district semifinal-prepared to stop five West Ottawa shots. And waiting anxiously in a line in front of the goal was the entire Ram brigade, with the five chosen ones waiting nervously among them. In the stands, their parents anxiously bit their lips and prayed for success. The Rams won the toss and opted to shoot first in the every-other lineup. Senior co-captain Rachel Doud, a deceptively fast midfielder, stepped to the line first. She shot and scored from 12 yards out, sending the Rockford crowd into hysterics. West Ottawa’s first player did the same, however, and the score was tied. Next up for Rockford was Jordan Diffenderfer, whose wily and aggressive play often confuses the opposition. Her shot flew past late-diving Panther goalkeeper Katie Overway. But West Ottawa scored again, making the score even. Sydney Benda, the Rams’ sophomore standout, was third in the shoot-out lineup for the Rams. She scored, and the crowd went crazy. Again, West Ottawa echoed the result, putting the pressure on Rockford defender Sam Decker as she stepped to the line. Decker took her shot and scored, too, but because the referee had not blown his whistle, she was forced to shoot again. Her next shot put the Rams up 4-3 in the shootout. West Ottawa’s next shot hit the post and bounced off, giving Rockford sophomore Lanie Esch, who was just called up to the team on Wednesday from the junior varsity squad, the opportunity to seal the 1-0 win. She answered the challenge, and the Rams captured their third district title in four years. “We so deserved that!” said Hazel after the game. “I […]

Rockford soccer beats Muskegon, ties West Ottawa

May 13, 2009 // 0 Comments

by JACKIE HOLLAND-DECKER The Rams saw lots of OK Red action last week with games against Muskegon and West Ottawa. The results were different, but the Rams’ strengths showed through in both. Against the visiting Big Reds of Muskegon Monday night, May 4, the Rams shot the ball nearly 35 times in the first half, but only one of those balls went in-on a penalty kick. All of the rest were wide, high or caught or deflected by Muskegon goalkeeper Chantel McBride. In the second half, the floodgates opened, however, and Rockford finished with a season-high six goals in the shutout against the shorthanded visitors, who were missing seven players because of their Honor Society induction back home. The Rams’ lone goal in the opening half came with 29.2 seconds remaining. Senior captain Rachel Doud was driving to the net and launched the ball. But instead of going in, her kick made contact with the hand of one of the Big Reds, setting up a penalty kick right in front of the goal. Doud shot right on the penalty kick; McBride stayed put. The scoreboard lit up. In the second half, the scoring onslaught began when Sydney Benda sent a shot high into the net over the goalkeeper’s head one minute into the half. Senior Matti Graves made the score 3-0 eight minutes later when she finished what Kate Huyser had started. Graves was in the right place at the right time when Huyser’s shot was deflected by McBride out to Graves, who shot it in from close proximity. Lindsey Hutchings scored next when her shot hit the bottom left of the net with 26:10 remaining. By then, the Big Reds were looking mighty tired, but they kept up the fight. Although their scoring opportunities were almost nil, their junior varsity squad cheered on every good move their upperclassmen counterparts made. The younger Big Reds proved to be great fans. Jordan Diffenderfer lit up the scoreboard next for the Rams, sneaking past the Big Red defense to score with 8:14 left to play. She scored again two minutes later off a cross right in front of the net from Sondra Weaver. On Wednesday, May 6, Rockford traveled to West Ottawa’s (WO) home turf, where a […]

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