McKenzie Means

Maplewood’s McKenzie Means celebrates the first of her three goals with Maya Marshall (3) during the first half of Wednesday’s game against Oil City.

TOWNVILLE — For the first time this season, the Maplewood Tigers girls soccer team has won three games in a row, and they did it with an explosion of offense against the visiting Oil City Oilers. 

McKenzie Means landed the second hat trick of her varsity career, while Maya Marshall, Natalie Kurt and Jordyn Ploski also found the back of the net for the Tigers in Wednesday’s 6-2, Region 3 home victory. 

Maplewood withstood a couple of counterpunches from Oil City in the first half, as Jenna Fischli and Lailya Russell scored for the Oilers. The opening frame provided most of the offense in the contest. The two clubs combined to take 41 shots, with 25 of those on target in the first 40 minutes, as Maplewood led 4-2 at the break. 

However, the Tigers defense toughened up in the final stanza to preserve the win.

“I thought we offensively dominated the game and held the ball well, but we had a couple lapses defensively,” Maplewood coach Ted Eriksen said. “They just took a while to wake up. Once they did, we settled down and controlled the ball in the back end. We were able to keep the pressure up.”

The first shot of the game, off the foot of Means, found its way in the back of the net past Oiler goalkeeper Lauren McTiernan less than 30 seconds into the action. Heidi Mitchell was credited with the assist on the play.

Oil City then responded with a goal from Fischli a few minutes later after she carried the ball down the left side line and scored unassisted past Tiger netminder Natalie Slagle.

The sequence repeated itself shortly thereafter when Means tallied her second goal. Russell then provided the Oilers equalizer when she collected a rebound off a shot from Fischli and sent it into goal.

Means later put the Tigers ahead for good when she completed her first hat trick since Sept. 1, 2018 against West Middlesex — Means’ first career varsity game. The Maplewood junior now has a team-best six goals in 2020.

Marshall added her fourth goal of the campaign a few ticks before the horn at the break when she converted a rebound off her own breakaway chance to put the Tigers ahead 4-2 at the intermission.

“McKenzie was on fire today,” Eriksen said. “I think (Monday’s) goal against Titusville helped her learn to maximize the speed she has. Maya was on top of the ball up front. A lot of the things we worked on in practice are starting to be used in games.”

In the second half, Maplewood added two more insurance tallies. Kurt recorded her third goal of the year off a pass from Adrianna Stearns before Ploski converted a corner kick into the back of the net for her second strike of the season.

Slagle and the Tiger defense shut down any Oiler momentum and limited the visitors to only five shots in the second half. Slagle made saves on all three Oil City shots on goal, increasing her total to 11 for the game. 

“Getting our heads up, playing the ball more consistently and marking correctly on their faster players (were the keys in the second half,” Eriksen said. “They had a couple of quick girls. Fischli was very physical and aggressive. We were giving Oil City too much room early on, just not paying enough attention, and letting Fischli get rolling.”

McTiernan stopped 17 of Maplewood’s 23 shots on goal throughout the game.

Eriksen was pleased with the play of his forwards — Kurt, Marshall and Means — and was glad to get some momentum moving forward as his team has its first three-game winning streak since Oct. 12-18, 2017. Maplewood now heads into a tough four-game stretch that includes road games at Meadville, Warren and Eisenhower.

“We needed our forwards to have good games and realize that quick passes and their sprint speed can turn things around,” Eriksen said. “They just haven’t put the combinations together consistently through the season, but they’re getting there.”

Maplewood (5-6) will next travel to Meadville on Saturday at 2 p.m. The Bulldogs claimed a 2-0 victory in Townville on Sept. 22.

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