TOWNVILLE — Even though the season has just begun, the Maplewood Tigers girls soccer team has already been forced to make adjustments. After losing three starters — Brooke Reynolds, Madalyn Zook and Adrianna Stearns — in Monday’s 2-1 overtime loss at Franklin, the Tigers have had to rework their lineup and system. Meanwhile, the Titusville Rockets adjusted from practicing to playing in a varsity game for the first time in 2020 as the two clubs met in a Region 3 contest at Maplewood Elementary School on Wednesday.
Maplewood had the initial surge out the gate and made first-half goals from Maya Marshall and Natalie Kurt hold up. Even though Lindsay Sines gave the Rockets their first goal of the season in the second half, the Tigers held off their neighbors, 2-1.
Maplewood coach Ted Eriksen called the victory “huge” for his club after sustaining injuries and falling in overtime on Monday.
“We lost three starters to injury early in the game against Franklin, and it just beat us up,” Eriksen said. “The first game being on turf takes a lot more out of you. We’re using a totally new formation to make up for the three players that we lost. It was just sprung on them (Tuesday), so they adjusted pretty well.”
Although Titusville recorded the first two shots of the day after the opening whistle, Maplewood controlled the tempo and found themselves on their own scoring end at the onset. It didn’t take long for the Tigers to put pressure on Rocket goalkeeper Paisley Crawford.
A few minutes in, Marshall was able to connect from the left side of the box, floating the ball over Crawford and nailing a “bank shot” off the far post and into the back of the net for the game’s first tally. Shortly thereafter, Maplewood extended its advantage to 2-0 when Marshall crossed the ball over to Kurt in the center of the box for a point-blank shot into the back of the twine. It was Kurt’s second goal of the season after recording the lone Tiger goal Monday at Franklin.
“We came out and played well in the first 20-25 minutes, which is what I was looking for,” Eriksen said. “We’ve had a habit in the past of starting slow, but we really picked it up and I was really pleased with that. We had a couple of nice goals. The patience to set it up and the passing have been some things that we have been working on a lot. They showed a lot of composure with the ball today.”
Down 2-0, the Rockets started to pick up the pace in the latter portion of the first half. Titusville had a chance to cut its deficit in half when the Maplewood defense was called for a hand ball inside the box. On the penalty kick, Anna Shellgren’s shot sailed over the crossbar as the Tigers were let off the hook.
The Tigers responded by almost making it a three-goal game a few ticks later, when a shot by McKenzie Means caromed off the far post and rolled away from the net.
Later in the half, Maplewood goaltender Natalie Slagle stifled another potential scoring chance for Titusville. Adeline Hartshorne tried to set up Brooke Anthony on a crossing pass, but Slagle came out of the net and made a sliding stop on the play. The Rocket duo tried the same set up at the end of the half with Anthony making the dish across to Hartshorne, but the pass did not settle enough for a shot and took an unlucky bounce away from Hartshorne.
In the second half, it was the visiting Rockets who came out with the intensity. A few minutes into the frame, Titusville attempted to score off a corner kick. On the play, Sines timed the bounce and sent a header toward the net but Slagle was there to stop the scoring chance.
“She’s just been real steady and has been doing a great job,” Eriksen said of his netminder. “She’s much more relaxed now that she’s had a couple of seasons behind her. She’s been making better decisions each game.”
The Rockets were finally able to break through against Slagle near the midpoint of the half. Maplewood was called for obstruction outside the box on the right side of the Titusville attack. Shellgren took the direct kick and, after a couple of ricochets, Sines collected the ball and powered a shot off Slagle and into the goal to put Titusville on the scoreboard. Titusville coach Luke Dye said that the Rocket goal was all “heart.”
“The girls worked so hard,” Dye said. “It was one of those grit goals, with not a whole lot of buildup or tactic to it, but you don’t put those in unless you give a 100% effort.”
Playing with a little more desperation in the final minutes, Titusville worked relentlessly to get another scoring chance to potentially force overtime. However, the Tiger defense would not let the game slip away. Hartshorne had a breakaway attempt with just over 10 minutes remaining but was stopped head-on by Slagle.
Maplewood almost iced the game a few minutes before the final horn when Jordyn Ploski took a direct kick above the box, but her shot was met by the crossbar as the score remained 2-1 until the whistle.
In net, Slagle finished with five saves, while Crawford stopped four shots on goal.
Dye was pleased with his team’s effort in the second half, but wants his players to work on starting faster.
“I think from the start we were really slow and a little afraid,” Dye said. “After we made some halftime adjustments, we came out a little stronger and less afraid. We’ve learned from our past two scrimmages that we know how to finish, but we don’t know how to start, and that’s something we’ll be addressing.”
Maplewood (1-1) will travel to Oil City at 10 a.m. on Saturday, while Titusville (0-1) heads to Franklin on Friday at 6 p.m. Both are region contests.