Lions Clip the Eagles
Title on the line Friday when TC comes to town
Story and Photos by Tara Hefferan
Scoring came early and often as Newaygo Lions Soccer won 10-0 against the Kent City Eagles at home on Wednesday, May 10. The game saw several Lions score their first career goals, with the full roster earning quality minutes on the pitch.
The opening goal came less than 2 minutes after the whistle, when Lynnea Briones sent a ball forward to Connelly Hefferan Nordlund. Hefferan Nordlund passed the ball on the ground to Grace Painter, who faced the Kent City keeper in a one v. one. Painter beat the keeper with an easy pass into the lower left corner. The Lions were ahead 1-0.
Less than a minute later, Maddie Couch sent a ball to Hefferan Nordlund, who put it through for McCaiden Rienstra. Sprinting toward goal, Rienstra took the shot from the center of the box. While the keeper was able to get a touch on it, the ball rolled over her hand and into the back of the net. The Lions were leading 2-0.
The Lions found their third goal 4 minutes later, when Hefferan Nordlund sent the ball to Briones, who put the ball through for Painter. Painter beat the back line, slotting the ball to the right of the keeper. This brought the Lions to 3-0.
In the 9th minute, Hefferan Nordlund passed the ball to Painter, who brought it up the right side of the field. Rienstra was positioned at the back post, anticipating the cross into the box. Receiving the ball, Rienstra made an easy pass into the lower left corner. The Lions were ahead 4-0.
The Lions continued to make shots on goal. As the Eagles tried to transition to attack, Rachel Larsen made the steal, pushing the ball back up field. When the ball rebounded seconds later, Larsen pounced, burying the ball in the back of the net, for the first goal of her high school career. Reflecting on the milestone, Larsen said it was “really exciting!” As a freshman, she hopes that there will be many more goals to come. Larsen’s goal put the Lions ahead 5-0.
With 27 minutes remaining in the half, the Eagles again tried to transition to the attack. However, they were stopped by Briones, who caught a deflected pass and dribbled it back toward goal. Briones fired a shot in from the left side of the 18-yard line, securing the Lions 6th goal.
Two minutes later, Hefferan Nordlund intercepted the ball, sending it up to Painter. Painter laid it off to a surging Luella Hilden. From the center of the box, freshmen Hilden roofed the ball, earning her first career goal. Hilden said that scoring this momentous goal “was soooo satisfying. It was a good feeling. Refreshing even.” Hilden’s goal brought the Lions tally to 7.
Seconds after celebrating Hilden’s success, the Lions found their 8th goal. Painter sent a ball to Hefferan Nordlund, who from the 18-yard line powered it into the back of the net.
The Lions made several line-up changes following the 8th goal, including putting Hefferan Nordlund in goal for Lion keeper Barbara Toth. Moving into a striker role, Toth made several strong attacks on the Eagles goal. Defenders Sofia Briggs and Natalie Richardson also made deep runs to set up plays in front of the Eagles net, and Couch moved from the defense into the midfield.
With twelve minutes left in the half, Painter sent in a curling ball from the right side of the field. It went into the corner, well outside the keeper’s reach, bringing the Lions to 9 goals.
Ten minutes later, as the first half was nearing a close, the Lions were awarded a corner kick. Taking the kick, Painter dropped the ball into the middle of the box. Couch was ready to spring, leaping into the air in front of the defense, and using her body to steer the ball into the left side of the net. This was Couch’s first goal, as well. She said, “Scoring a goal tonight was just such a fun opportunity. It really just made the game even more enjoyable, especially since in my regular position I don’t often have that chance.” Couch scored the 10th and final goal of the match.
The match ended after the first half, due to the mercy rule. The Lions sent in 23 total shots, with 6 on goal and 10 in goal. The Eagles had 2 shots, with 1 save awarded to Toth and 1 to Hefferan Nordlund.
Commenting on the game, Coach Matt Painter said, “One of the things I love about this team is how they embrace our value of ‘the team comes first…’ They are willing to play new positions, they cheer each other on, they do what is best for their teammates before doing things for themselves. Tonight, we had seniors assisting freshman to get their first high school goal, and we had starters cheering on those who typically cheer on the starters. We now need to turn our focus to the Tri County game, which will potentially decide at least a share of the conference title!”
The Lions will take on the Tri County Vikings at home on Friday, May 12 at 5:30 PM, in what might be considered their most significant game of the season so far. Currently, the Lions and Vikings are tied for first place in the CSAA conference. The Lions record stands at 6-0-0 in conference play and 12-0-1 overall. The Vikings are also at 6-0-0 in conference play and 9-0-1 overall.
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