Newcomers, veterans come together to help Rochester drub Peru in conference opener
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
PERU –- There are plenty of chances for glory if you play on the Rochester girls soccer team, whether you just joined the team this year or played for a long time.
That was evident in their Three Rivers Conference opener against host Peru Thursday.
Emma Howdeshell, a newcomer, scored four goals, and Mackie Leslie, a senior who has been playing organized soccer every year since she was a third-grader, scored on a penalty kick as part of the Lady Zs’ 11-0 win.
It wasn’t just Howdeshell and Leslie who contributed. Macie Nelson scored twice, and Lillith Eaton, Amy Williams, Haley Pesak and Kendyll Bradley also scored.
Bradley, Eaton and Pesak all tallied within the first seven minutes after coach Chantal Rensberger urged her players for a fast start.
“The field conditions were a little rougher than what we were used to, so the biggest thing for us was get up early, hold the lead, and then we could be done in 20 minutes,” Rensberger said. “We didn’t want any injuries on the field. But it’s conference, and conference is important, especially when you’re doing TRC nominations, and this year, we’re going to be very aggressive against conference teams. So up three in seven minutes was the plan. It was much quicker than what I even expected, but they came to win, but they came to win, and they definitely proved that tonight.”
It took them less than 15 minutes to assume a 5-0 lead, which started a running clock per the new IHSAA mercy rule. It was 7-0 at halftime after Leslie’s penalty kick goal with 17:30 left in the half and Howdeshell’s goal with 10:16 left.
And the game ended after 60 minutes, which is the shortest amount of time a game can take per the mercy rule and which gets enforced if one team leads the other by nine goals.
Nelson and Howdeshell had two goals each in the second half.
Howdeshell said she had not played organized soccer since she was in “the little leagues.” She played volleyball the previous two years but is one of several players in the junior class who decided to try soccer this year.
In the winter, Howdeshell is the starting point guard on the Rochester girls basketball team.
“I just felt like it would get me more in shape for basketball, and I wanted to try something new,” Howdeshell said. “They’ve welcomed us really nicely, and I feel like I’ve been playing for awhile with these girls. The bond is there, and they’re really good at teaching us the new things and really helping us understand how soccer works.”
With the new players combining with the holdovers, Rensberger said this is “by far” the most athletic team she has coached in her four years as head coach.
She also said players are “finding passes” and “seeing the triangles” in a way that will make them a better passing and more technically sound team.
“Athleticism and quickness are what make great soccer players,” Rensberger said. “If you have that, you can score goals. You can figure it out. As you can see, Emma Howdeshell is a first-year player; she had four goals this afternoon. Macie Nelson is a returning player, and she’s putting up two on the board. You got Kendyll Bradley scoring. We have Mackie Leslie with her first ever varsity goal on a penalty kick. We really stress that everyone needs to be able to score. We don’t want to be one of those teams that only one girl scores.”
Rochester girls soccer coach Haley Pesak