Adeline Hartshorne

Titusville forward Adeline Hartshorne (8) plays the ball in front of Eisenhower’s Ava Nizzi during the first half of Tuesday’s game.

A five-minute spell of poor defensive play doomed the Titusville Rockets girls soccer team’s chances of pulling out a victory as the visiting Eisenhower Knights earned a 5-0 shutout win at the Ed Myer Complex on Tuesday.

Elley Eastman netted a hat trick, while Megan Strausser added a pair of goals for the Knights, who scored all five of their goals in the first half. Lilee Renninger earned the shutout in goal, making four saves.

Both teams were scoreless through the first 10 minutes of play before Cassie Smelko found Eastman on a cross in the box for the game’s first scoring play with exactly 30 minutes remaining in the Region 3 contest. Eisenhower put three more goals in the back of the net in the ensuing 4:34 to give the Knights a commanding 4-0 advantage.

“It happens time and time again,” Titusville coach Luke Dye said. “We let one in, and we were down; then another and another. It’s just a domino effect. We need to learn how to start fast.”

Strausser tallied the next Knights goal by crashing on a rebound opportunity and putting her shot past Rocket goalkeeper Paisley Crawford. A cross from Peterson to Strausser was converted for a 3-0 Knights lead. Eastman’s second goal capped the scoring run with 25:26 left on the first-half clock.

Eastman completed her hat trick with 3:21 remaining in the first half, as Eisenhower led 5-0 going into the intermission.

Dye and his coaching staff have been trying to find a way to get the Rockets to avoid the slow starts they have seen at times during the season. 

“That’s been the growing question for the past couple of weeks,” Dye said. “We’re trying to influence them by showing them the results; like the difference in the two halves today. We just have to keep telling them we are in games other than the slow starts.”

In the second half, the Titusville defense stood tall, not allowing another Eisenhower shot to go into goal. Crawford made five saves, while the offense started to create some scoring chances.

Anna Shellgren put a shot on goal off a direct kick, but was met by the hands of Renninger. A few minutes later, Lindsay Sines’ chance off a throw-in from Shellgren in the attacking zone sailed just high of the crossbar. Sines recorded another shot on goal about midway through the second half, but the Rockets were unable to collect their first goal since Sept. 24 against Oil City.

Dye was pleased with some of his relatively inexperienced defensive players stepping up.

“(Quinteyia) Bowens subbed in the back and did a great job,” Dye said. “She was playing the ball and hustling everywhere. We put Bella Middleton in there initially, because we were missing Courtney Erickson. We tried to get some speed back there, but Quinteyia proved that she can be relied upon. Alana Jackson, as well, is not a defender, but she played fearlessly back there. It’s a great sign for the future.”

Titusville (1-6) will look to snap its four-game losing streak when the Rockets play a home-and-home two-game set against Conneaut Area. The Rockets will travel to Linesville on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. before hosting the Eagles on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. Titusville won both matches last season and scored a combined nine goals in those contests. 

“That’s a really good opportunity for us,” Dye said of the next two games. “Conneaut Area is a lower-level team in the standings, and I think we can take them. We just need to come out strong.”

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