BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
PERU — Playing their fourth game in six days, the shorthanded Rochester girls soccer team lost 2-0 to host Peru Thursday to stay winless on the season.
Katy Jo Kieninger scored the only goal Peru would need with 15:42 left in the first half. Ashlyn Brown tacked one on for insurance with 22:47 left in the game.
Peru improved to 2-6 overall and 1-3 in the Three Rivers Conference. Rochester fell to 0-12, 0-5.
This marked Rochester’s first loss to Peru since they became conference rivals eight years ago. Rochester had outscored Peru 30-1 in their last four meetings.
Rochester played without senior Lilly Watson and junior Audrey Wagner. Wagner has a right knee injury, and Watson has been dealing with “some health issues,” according to Rochester coach Chantal Rensberger.
Rochester also lost sophomore goalkeeper Mylee Heinzmann when she was inadvertently kicked in the knee scrambling for a loose ball on Cassandra Blong’s initial shot. Brown eventually ran down the loose ball and tapped it into the empty net.
A trainer tended to Heinzmann, who then walked off under her own power.
Freshman Ruthie Love replaced Heinzmann in goal, and Heinzmann later returned to the game at forward wearing No. 24 in a white jersey instead of No. 98 in goalkeeper pink.
Coach Rensberger estimated that only Aubrey Miller, Skyla Mitchell and Heinzmann had any previous varsity experience.
“I have only three girls left on the bench, and of those girls, none of them have played soccer, and not all of them are in soccer shape,” coach Rensberger said. “Wagner is such an influential defender. If you have Wagner out there, that’s a completely different game. She can clear the ball much better. She has better goal kicks, but she has a hyperextended kneecap right now, so she was told to sit. Lilly Watson is battling some health issues, but her speed alone up front would have been super beneficial because she is aggressive, and she is very fast, and we needed that tonight to get through.”
Kieninger scored first when she took a left-footed shot from the left wing, and it took a spinning hop past Heinzmann and went into the back of the net.
Rochester coach Chantal Rensberger praised Kieninger afterwards.
“Number 8 (Kieninger) was phenomenal,” coach Rensberger said. “”You put that girl at Argos, and she’s a starter. She was a phenomenal player. They didn’t really, I feel, have any specific strategy. They just wanted it, and they were hungry. They had two or three girls that stepped up when their team needed it, and they got the ball in the back of the net.”
That came about eight minutes after Rochester’s Bria Rensberger fed Aubrey Miller with a through ball from midfield. Miller had a one-on-one opportunity, but the Peru goalkeeper was there to stop it.
Taylor Navara took to the air for a shot for the Lady Zs from 25 yards out with two minutes left in the half, but the Peru goalkeeper caught it on the fly.
Heinzmann stopped another Kieninger shot with 34:30 left in the game and Rochester trailing 1-0.
Rochester appeared to have an opportunity when Bria Rensberger received a through ball pass and dribbled in one-on-one with the keeper, but she could not get a shot on frame.
Rochester freshman Izzy Hook made her first career start. Along with Chloe Winn, Bria Rensberger, Nevaeh Goodman, Navara and Love, she was one of five freshmen that played for the Lady Zs.
“She’s a player that has a ton of potential,” coach Rensberger said. “She’s very fast. She’s an eager learner. She’s coachable.”
Navara also represents the future of Lady Z soccer.
“Taylor has all the ability in the world, but she’s got to hone it in,” coach Rensberger said. “She’s got to stay grounded. She tends to hop around and be out of position a lot. It’s something that we’re working with. That girl could probably be the best center (mid)fielder since (2023 grad) Kendyll Bradley.”
Coach Rensberger is optimistic for the future but said attitudes need to change.
“I just told them they freeze,” coach Rensberger said. “It’s like we go to practice, and everybody’s connecting, connecting, and it’s so good, and then you come out onto the field, and it’s I-I-I-I-I-I, and there’s no team, and that dynamic has to change to win games. And until they can figure out that dynamic, we’re going to continue to lose.”
Rochester was coming off a 2-1 home loss to North Miami on senior night at the Brent Blacketor Memorial Sports Complex Wednesday. Senior Brooke Nelson scored the lone goal.