Howdeshell Hat Trick, Eaton also scores as Lady Zs clinch TRC title share
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
About a half-hour after they beat Wabash at the Brent Blacketor Memorial Sports Complex Wednesday, players on the Rochester girls soccer team maneuvered around to take selfies with a double rainbow as a backdrop as the skies cleared after a cool, rainy night.
Those rainbows were literal.
The metaphorical rainbow they are chasing is the Three Rivers Conference title, and that is also in the Lady Zs’ sights after their 7-1 win over the Lady Apaches.
Emma Howdeshell had three goals and an assist, and Lillith Eaton also scored for Rochester, who improved to 7-4-1 overall and 4-0 in the TRC. Amy Williams, Haley Pesak and Kendyll Bradley also had goals.
Rylee Yoakum scored on a penalty kick in the 77th minute for Wabash, who fell to 2-4 overall and 2-2 in the TRC.
Rochester clinched a share of the TRC title with the win. They can clinch the title outright with a win at home over North Miami at 10 a.m. Saturday. Maconaquah could still share the TRC with a Lady Z loss to North Miami.
Howdeshell hit Williams in stride for the first goal with 26:30 left in the half, and Eaton dribbled through the defense and scored unassisted with 23:02 left to make it 2-0.
After senior night ceremonies at halftime, Howdeshell and Pesak scored in an 18-second span in the first minute of the second half as the lead stretched to 4-0. Emily Basham assisted on Howdeshell’s goal before Pesak blasted a shot from long distance.
“It was past the 18(-yard box) and it went right over the goalie’s hand and into the left corner,” Pesak said. “I think that was the best goal I’ve ever had.”
Pesak said after the game that she is playing with a torn right ACL. She said the pain “comes and goes.” She said it’s the second time she’s torn it in her career. She also tore it against Maconaquah in 2018.
She’s also been out on two different occasions due to quarantine.
“My doctor actually told me I could play the rest of the season out,” Pesak said of her knee injury. “And then I get ACL reconstruction after the season. … It means a lot. My main concern was playing senior night because of the four years that I’ve put into all of this.”
A Howdeshell goal where she pounced on a rebound after Wabash goalkeeper Hannah Layne could not hang on to a shot made it 5-0 with 32:59 left and started the running clock. It’s believed that Howdeshell set the new school record with 20 goals in a season.
Jordan Jennings, a 2020 grad, held the previous record of 19.
Eaton’s second goal, which she buried in the back left corner of the net, made it 6-0 with 30:22 left.
Bradley scored with 6:41 left to make it 7-0.
Bradley and Eaton have patrolled the midfield during the winning streak, often interrupting any offensive flow from their opponent.
Rochester has outscored their opposition 25-2 in four conference games. Better finishing has been part of their recent success, according to Rensberger.
“The Bremen game, the finishing was phenomenal,” Rensberger said. “The Manchester game, the finishing was not there. Tonight’s game, the finishing was phenomenal. So sometimes with this team, it’s like we’re hot or cold. We’ve been more hot than we’ve been cold lately. It’s just them believing in themselves. You can’t kick the ball to the goalie and not expect the goalie to do her job.”
Pesak, Basham, Kami Burkett, goalkeeper Kaillie Woods and Mackie Leslie were honored during senior night ceremonies at halftime.
Leslie, who was honorable mention all-TRC last year as a junior, said that Bradley and Eaton make her job as center defense easier.
“I use my voice to yell at every single person,” the extroverted Leslie quipped. “I’m just a megaphone.”
She said bouncing back after a 2-0 win over long-time TRC powerhouse Manchester Monday was tougher physically than mentally.
“We had a lot of injuries,” Leslie said. “We took some time in ice and recovered, but we came back and did what we can. We do what we do.”
This is Rensberger’s fourth year as coach, so this group of seniors is the first class she has seen through for their entire prep careers.
She specifically mentioned Woods, noting her friendship with Woods’ mother and adding that “goalies are hard to find.”
“It’s emotional,” Rensberger said of the senior group in general. “They are the first group I’ve ever coached as a head coach. So they’ve had such great success the last four years, and it makes me very proud.”
Mackie Leslie Lillith Eaton