Villegas’ hat trick, B. Hamilton’s goal help Culver top Rochester
Miller, M. Nelson score for Lady Zs
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Giselle Villegas scored three goals, and freshman Breana Hamilton also scored for the Culver girls soccer team in a 4-2 home win over Rochester Thursday.
Culver won their third straight and improved to 4-2. Rochester lost their third straight and fell to 1-3.
This was the teams’ first meeting since Culver beat Rochester 4-3 in last year’s sectional quarterfinals at Argos on Oct. 5, 2021.
Culver was leading 2-1 in the second when they scored twice in less than two minutes.
Hamilton, the youngest of three sisters on the team, scored after a scramble in front after an initial shot from oldest sister Kaylee Hamilton hit the crossbar.
With 11:04 left, Villegas completed her hat trick to make it 4-1.
Aubrey Miller and Macie Nelson scored for Rochester. Miller scored on a rebound, beating Katie Schouten at the top of the net after Schouten stopped Kendyll Bradley’s initial shot.
That cut Culver’s lead to 2-1 with 2:01 left in the half.
Still, the defense of Kennedy Jackson, Amiyah Williams, Grace Barth and Abbi Kisela limited Rochester’s opportunities. Jackson, a senior, transferred from Rochester to Culver over the summer. Williams has moved from midfielder as a freshman to defender as a sophomore.
“I tip my hat to Abbi Kisela,” Neace said. “She’s my captain on my defense. And then adding in Kennedy Jackson as another senior that’s played defense so much. Amiyah Williams is unbelievable as a sophomore for us on the defensive end. We played her at a mid last year, and she didn’t look comfortable on the field. But now, she’s all over the place, and she does a great job. Our defense is probably, I would say, one of the best that I’ve had.”
Rochester coach Chantal Rensberger is trying to carve out roles for seniors like Nelson, Kendyll Bradley and Amy Williams and junior Lilly Watson up front while also indoctrinating newer players to varsity soccer to fill the roles of departed players like Emma Howdeshell, who chose not to play after setting the single-season goal record and making the all-Three Rivers Conference team, and Lillith Eaton, another all-TRC midfielder who transferred to Mishawaka Marian.
“To be honest, finishing is really a big struggle this season,” Rensberger said. “I’ve had to put some of my better scorers such as Amy and Macie to mid to help Kendyll because she can’t do it by herself, and with the loss of Lilli Eaton, she is very one-dimensional, back and forth, back and forth. And she is human. She gets tired. So it has been hard. You can’t win soccer games without scoring goals. It’s a very raw team. It’s a very new team. It’s something that we are constantly working on the past practices. … When you have five girls who have never played before and you’re trying to get them that dynamic, it’s hard to teach them advanced skill-set stuff because they’re just learning how to dribble, they’re just learning how to pass, they’re learning how to strike the ball.
“So it was difficult to make any plays happen centrally, and that’s why I decided to move Macie Nelson back up front. Because she was exhausted running back and forth. She was having some issues with her breathing, and I’m like, she can’t leave the field. So putting her back up front did help a lot, but I would just like for her to be a little bit more demanding up there when we have a nice cross from Amy, I know Macie can finish that cross. So instead of backing off for maybe the forward who’s a freshman who has never played before to get it, I would like for Macie to take that next step up to be like, ‘My ball, my dominance, I’m a senior, I’m the one with experience, I can score the goals.’”
Still, stopping Villegas has been problematic. She had a goal and an assist in a 3-2 loss at home to Culver on Sept. 2, 2021, and she had two more assists in last year’s sectional game.
“(Number) 17 (Villegas) is a phenomenal player,” Rensberger said. “You can’t take anything away from her. And that’s the difference between our time and their team. We’re very defensive-minded and midfield-minded, and they have two strong forwards, and that’s what scores goals. Even if defense clears it out 400 times. We had an unlucky clear from our goalie, and any good forward or striker is going to take advantage of that. That was an easy goal. … She’s a great player, and she’s been a great player for many years. Defensively, I don’t think it’s hard to defend her. I thought we defended her very well, but I also just feel like she’s got a very high skill set when it comes to scoring goals, and she’s a forward. She knows what she’s doing.”
Neace said that Villegas, who has 14 goals on the season, can play even better and that Villegas agreed with his opinion.
“I thought she didn't trap the ball well,” Neace said. “She did score well, but she didn’t trap and make the extra pass like she normally does. And she even came over to me after the game and said she had an off game. Which, a hat trick, for an off game? I’ll take that any day of the week.”
Culver sophomore Kassidy Banks missed the game with a knee injury. She scored 20 goals last year.
Watch the full match here: