SYRACUSE – For about 60 minutes of the girls soccer match Thursday evening, Lakeland Christian Academy looked like a team that hadn’t played in 10 days. It seemed to take about as long for the Cougars to get going in an eventual 3-0 win at Wawasee.
“We started a little sluggish like usual, and maybe the field and the lights kind of intimidated some of us right off the bat,” said LCA head coach Nat Raber. “It was a little hurdle to go through. We’ll be OK. We’re still progressing and trying to work through the season, not where we want to be right now, but working to where we want to be at the end of the season. It’s a work in progress.”
For an LCA team that used several speedy runs along the wings and dashing darts through the middle in a rainy, lopsided win against Whitko on Aug. 26, it looked as though the mud from its field was left on its cleats. What generally translates into quick transitions and plentiful breakaway attempts on the turf at Warrior Field saw neither team make many in the first half. The game’s only goal in the first half came on a connection play by LCA that had an open Jessi Calizo take a loose ball into space and beat keeper Lillian Beer near corner for the icebreaker.
A first 40 minutes that saw a total of just two shots taken opened up much more in the second half.
Wawasee took its first shot just two minutes in, a pensive, lofting ball by McKenzie Long that forced LCA keeper Finley Hobbs to not only make a decision on when to get it, but also shield her eyes from the direct sun sitting at eye level for the west-facing net.
Jessi Calizo continued to work her way into the Wawasee zone, as did sister Tori Calizo, and that’s where LCA finally cracked the Wawasee code.
After Jessi sent in a pair of shots Beer had to block to keep astray, Tori would whistle in a long shot that Beer initially grabbed, but bobbled and saw trickle into the side netting in the 58th minute. The sisters continued to pester the Wawasee net, and the attention paid to them opened up others, which afforded LCA’s third goal.
A cross into the Wawasee box found Keely Bauer in space, to which Bauer drew in the marking defender and hit Tori in stride for an easy strike and celebration in the 68th minute.
LCA would fire 15 shots in the contest, 11 on target. Wawasee, which played admirably on defense against two of the state’s leading scoring sisters from a season ago, did manage three shots of its own in the second half. But without much of a momentum push, couldn’t break apart Avery Hobbs and the LCA back line.
“I saw the traits in Avery last year that she was going to be a star for us on defense,” Raber said. “We have some really talented players and she is certainly among that group. Giving her the captain’s band I think helped her take more responsibility than she asked for coming in, but she’s taken that on and really become a very solid player.”
Wawasee, still looking for its first win of the season, falls to 0-7 overall. LCA moves to 3-1 on the season, and both teams have matches Saturday, Wawasee hosting Goshen and LCA visiting Central Noble.
“We are a growing team this year with a lot of girls in their first year playing and just having a young team in general,” said Wawasee head coach Sarah Fredericks. “It’s growing as a team and continue to work together to make it better.”