A stalwart first half defense, coupled with a spirited counter attack in the second stanza, were not enough to give the Titusville Rockets girls soccer team the win Wednesday, as they fell to the North East Grape Pickers, 3-1.
The game started out in North East’s favor, as the team was able to take the ball right into the Rockets’ half of the field and keep it there for some time.
Despite the pressure, the Titusville girls held strong, and with a little luck on their side, were able to block several attempts by the Grape Pickers to shoot for the goal. Rockets goalie Emily Finley made three saves before Titusville was able to finally get the ball to the other side of the field at the 33-minute mark.
Unfortunately, Finley would be back to work soon after, as North East managed to work the ball back over to the Rockets’ side.
This would become something as a pattern for Titusville. Although their defense was able to keep North East from scoring, the ball seemed to find a home around the Rockets’ net, rarely crossing to the other end of the field for very long.
A sign of hope came with 18 minutes left on the clock, when Rockets midfielder Lindsey Sines lined up a shot for North East’s goal. The shot was blocked, however, and only a minute later, the ball had made its way back over towards the Titusville goal.
Even the best of defenses can rarely outlast a constant offense, and North East finally found the crack in Titusville’s armor to make a goal with 15:54 left in the half with a long kick to the right corner of the net.
Titusville recovered from the setback, and once more turtled up. Playing in the defender position, junior Kassidee Szympruch made many blocks for Titusville, including deflecting a ball headed right for the area in front of the Rockets’ goal with the side of her head, a hit that drew a reaction from the audience.
Titusville made another attempt at North East’s goal in the remainder of the first half, but couldn’t find purchase. However, their defense managed to hold strong, preventing the Grape Pickers from picking up any other points as well.
Starting off into the second half, Titusville adopted a new strategy. Finley, now playing the forward position, led the Rockets on a rapid offense, with the team managing to keep the ball over on North East’s side, and even making two unsuccessful shots on goal in the first three minutes of the half.
Finley would end up making several attempts on North East’s goal, many coming close to scoring save for a last minute block.
While the attack seemed to take North East by surprise at first, as the team’s goalie was suddenly forced to be more active than she was in the initial stanza, the Grape Pickers rallied, and were able to pick up two more points 14 minutes into the half.
However, it wouldn’t be long after that the Rockets finally got the shot they were looking for. Coming towards the close of the 22-minute mark, midfielder Adeline Hartshorne shot the ball into North East’s net, putting Titusville on the board. Hartshorne was assisted in the effort by Sines and Finley.
A scoring chance never came up again for the local team, but they were able to close the gaps in their defense to keep North East’s offense from getting the ball into the goal as well. In perhaps a sign of how different the second half was to the first, North East had only recently pushed their way to Titusville’s side of the field when time ran out after being on the back-step for a while.
Titusville head coach Joe Timon praised his team after the game, acknowledging that they put in a solid effort despite lacking any substitutes.
“That’s never easy,” Timon said. “I think they more than stepped up to that challenge.”
Timon highlighted the fact that the Rockets’ defense managed to get North East declared off sides eight times in the opening half, something he called “unheard of.”
The team will look to perfect their counter attack before their next game on Saturday, when they’ll host the Red Bank Valley Bulldogs at 11 a.m.
Ray can be reached, by email, at firstname.lastname@example.org.