Patriots fend off Rangers in thrilling fashionAugust 29, 2018
By JONATHAN SAXON
LINCOLN CITY — It was only the sixth game of the season, but the girls soccer teams for Heritage Hills and Forest Park played with an intensity that is normally reserved for sectional games.
Both teams opened up conference play against each other on Tuesday evening, and both had a bit of momentum coming into their grassland game. The Patriots boasted an impressive 5-0 start to their season, while the Rangers had bounced back to win two of their last three games after an uneven start.
Both were looking to announce their presence in the Pocket Athletic Conference with a solid win and they fought tooth and nail for the right for 54 minutes to a 3-3 stalemate. But when the game went to penalty kicks for a resolution, the Big Blue Crew was finally able to pull through as Heritage Hills (6-0, 1-0) defeated Forest Park 4-2 in the final shootout.
Patriot coach Andy Fischer praised his girls after the game for staying in it and continuing to fight even as the Rangers (3-3, 0-1) battled back from a two goal deficit and went up 3-2 just before the end of the first half.
He told them more dogfights like this one were coming and he was encouraged by the grit his team was able to show.
“There was a lot of things going on in that game, you have to be mentally tough,” Fischer said. “Forest Park is just a gritty team. They played a great game, but I was really proud of my girls. They came back and showed a lot of grit and toughness. I’m very proud of them.”
It was a duel from the opening whistle. After the initial run around the field to determine possession, Forest Park was able to come up with control of the ball and put pressure on Heritage Hills. Juniors Lauren Jahn and Kenlee Gehlhausen were able to break through the line of Pats defenders for one of Forest Park’s shot attempts, the first of three in the first ten minutes of the game. Jahn passed to her cutting teammate, but Gehlhausen wasn’t able to land her shot in the goal.
It would be like this for most of the game, a back-and-forth fight to control the ball, followed by a window of opportunity that would find itself closed as quickly as it opened, such as when Pats senior Lydia Genet scrambled towards the Rangers’ net for a shot only to be cut off by freshman Payton Dilger.
Finally, junior Kiersten Schuler was able to break through and put Heritage Hills on the scoreboard after she rocketed a shot into Forest Park’s net. And, in a demonstration that lighting can in fact strike twice in the same place, Pats junior Nathalie Andersson was able to outrun three defenders for the Rangers to put one in and give Heritage Hills a 2-0 lead with a bit over 13 minutes to play in the first half.
However, that lead wouldn’t last for long as junior Denai Sicard was able to sneak one in to put Forest Park on the scoreboard. Shortly thereafter Jahn got to play the role of facilitator again as she saw an opportunity and passed to Sicard, who cashed in on her second shot and tied the game at two goals apiece with 3:23 remaining in the half.
But Forest Park wasn’t content to just take a tie into halftime and worked those final three minutes for all they had. They were aggressive on defense, pressing anything they could get their feet around and eventually found themselves with possession with about a minute left. And that’s all they would need, as Sicard crossed up a defender to score with eighteen-and-a-half seconds left, giving her a hat trick and the Rangers a 3-2 lead going into the break.
But the Patriots didn’t quit, they simply regrouped. They came out firing on all cylinders in the second half and needed less than two minutes before Schuler found the net once again to tie the game at 3-3.
And it would remain there for the rest of the game. There was a kind of slow down in the pace of the game as the time moved on and went into extra periods, but the fight was still there as no team gave ground. This thing was going to be decided with penalty kicks.
First was Schuler, who stepped up and found the net. Next was Sicard, who missed. Genet and senior Ali Wade hit their shots for Heritage Hills, while Gehlhausen and Jahn split the next two shots for Forest Park. Next up was Pats freshman Hadley Lytton and Rangers sophomore Ava Hamilton. Lytton missed and Hamilton scored to notch things up at 3-2. The final shot came from Andersson, who made the fourth and final PK to seal the win for the Patriots.
Schuler led Heritage Hills with two goals and a PK. Andersson also finished with a goal and a PK.
“We knew we were going to have a battle against Forest Park. The main thing we focused on was being relentless warriors and tough,” said Schuler. “We succeed as a team. We do it for each other.”
Sicard finished with a hat trick for the Rangers.
“I hope we learn that we have to keep our head up,” said Jahn, who had an assist in the loss. “I feel like we did pretty good, but we didn’t play our best game together.”
“I thought my girls responded pretty well,” said Rangers coach Brad Weyer. “Heritage Hills came out fired up, but I’m really happy with the way my girls responded. I’m confident in my girls resolve and their ability to bounce back.”
Heritage Hills will look to make it seven in a row against Gibson Southern this Saturday, while Forest Park will face Southridge at home tomorrow evening.
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