By Keith Knepp
NAPPANEE — High school athletics is finally happening in Elkhart County. Stymied for the first two weeks of the season by a directive from the county’s health officer, schools like NorthWood have been at a great disadvantage on the playing fields when matched up with their adversaries from surrounding areas.
On Saturday morning however, you wouldn’t have know that the NorthWood girls soccer team was in only its second contest of the year as they faced off against their U.S. 6 rivals from Bremen, a team that already had five games and three wins under their collective belt.
The host Panthers jumped out early with two goals in the first nine minutes of play, the first by sophomore Eva Sloat who took a cross from classmate Caitlin Knepp in the fourth minute, and the second just five minutes later by Knepp. From there, NorthWood established firm control of the pitch en route to a 7-0 non-conference win.
Knepp found a through ball from sophomore Ari Topping in the 24th minute and beat the Bremen defenders en route to the goal box, firing a laser past the Lion goalie for her second tally of the match and the final one of the first half.
NorthWood’s offense found the net again nine minutes into the second stanza when junior Emma Martz took a pass from Topping and placed it into the back of the net. Martz returned the favor in the 64th minute, assisting on Topping’s first goal of the season.
Topping earned her second score of the day off a carom that she was able to firmly push in with her torso. The Panthers’ final goal came as time was expiring as junior Lizzie Hilderbrant brought the ball up the right side of the field, connecting with the net from 15′ feet.
Panther goalies Lili Lomeli and Carly Mast combined on the shutout as NorthWood evened its record at 1-1. It will face a stiff test next Thursday evening when they travel to Middlebury to challenge Northern Lakes Conference rival Northridge.