A soaking wet field and and the loss of a player mid-way through the first half failed to dampen the Titusville Rockets girls soccer team as they overcame the odds to win their second victory of the season, beating the Conneaut Area Senior High Eagles, 1-0.
While no rain fell at the Ed Myer Complex field during Wednesday’s game, a deluge earlier in the day left the grounds covered in mud and puddles. It wasn’t an uncommon sight to see players slip and trip over one another during the match, while each step seemed to send a splash of water into the air.
Titusville launched into the attack during the opening moments of the Senior Night game. However, offensive pushes primarily spearheaded by midfielder Nicole Jackson failed to find purchase before the Eagles were able to turn the momentum against the Rockets.
“The first half was ugly,” Titusville coach Joe Timon said, as the local team was forced onto the back-step for much of the inaugural period of play.
Goalie Emily Finley, who also serves as a forward for Titusville, had to make many saves as the Rockets seemed unable to keep the ball away from their net.
Timon pointed to a lack of teamwork and communication as keeping the team from making any major coordinated offensive pushes.
Then, disaster struck for the Rockets. Midfielder Adeline Hartshorne, while lining up a shot on the Eagles’ goal around 19-minutes into the game, fell as she was rushed by defenders and hit the back of her head. Hartshorne continued to play for a little while longer, but was visibly clutching her head in pain, and eventually exited the match at the 18:45-minute mark.
Lacking any substitutes, the Rockets would now have to finish the match down a player, something which would potentially cripple any other team.
Instead, however, the loss seemed to rally the Titusville team.
Titusville’s coach believed that being down by one made the remaining Rockets play smarter and show more teamwork.
“Instead of each player playing their own game … we started playing one game as a team,” Timon said.
While Conneaut kept up the pressure through the rest of the first half, Titusville’s defense remained resolute, preventing the Eagles from finding any angles which would allow a goal.
The first half closed out without a score on the board for either team.
The start of the final phase of the match began much like the initial one. The Rockets launched themselves once more unto the breach into an all-out offense.
This time, however, the attack paid off.
Finley swapped out of the goalie position with defender Lindsey Kemp for the first 10-minutes of the second half. The Rockets have frequently put a focus on offense during the second half, a risk that doesn’t always pay off.
Titusville didn’t have to wait long for the move to work, as Finley would break away from Eagles defenders and send the ball flying into Conneaut’s net with 36:23-minutes left on the clock.
This single opening because the Eagles’ fatal flaw for the match. The Rockets continued their offensive push, even as Finley took over as goalie once more. Midfielder Nicole Jackson led many attacks on Conneaut’s goal, but each effort came up short.
After 20-minutes of attack, the Rockets were once more pushed into a defensive stance. With only a single goal to their name, the team prepared to hold fast against a Conneaut team desperate to take the lead.
While Titusville’s defenders put in valiant efforts, the pressure of the Eagles offense was unrelenting, and there were several close calls. During one particular battle in front of the Rockets’ goal around the 5-minute mark, a kick that seemed destined to soar into Titusville’s net only barely overshot, flying over the goal and preventing a tie.
The Rockets were unable to make any attacks during the ending minutes of the game, but were able to prevent multiple attempts by the Eagles to score their own goal, even making three near back-to-back blocks in the last minute of the match.
At the end-game siren, the Rockets let out a cheer as they finally found the second win of their season. The match may have been muddier and colder than the other ones this season, but Titusville managed to shine through.
In addition to a winning match, Wednesday’s game was also Senior Night for the Rockets. Six seniors were recognized for their time with the team, and members of the Titusville High School band performed fight songs during the first half.
Before the start of play, Titusville seniors were joined by their parents for a moment of recognition in front of the larger-than-usual crowd at the stadium. The seniors are of Olivia Burdick, Jackson, Kemp, Mary Murphy, Kali Sampson and Patty Siana.
Ray can be reached, by email, at firstname.lastname@example.org.