• Val T.

Watson, Howdeshell score twice each, lead Rochester past Maconaquah

BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS

Sports Editor, RTC

Kallie Watson is a junior at Rochester High School, but she is just starting to get the hang of this soccer thing.

A newcomer to the Lady Zs, she describes practice as “a lot of awesomeness.”

Watson contributed to some awesomeness in a game against Maconaquah at the Brent Blacketor Memorial Sports Complex Thursday.

Watson and Emma Howdeshell each scored twice, and Kendyll Bradley also scored for the Lady Zs in a 5-1 win.

Howdeshell also contributed an assist, as did Lillith Eaton, Emily Basham and Macie Nelson.

It took less than 20 minutes for Rochester to assume a 3-0 lead. They carried that lead into halftime.

Watson had two of those three early goals. She said the hardest part of learning soccer has been kicking the ball right.

“Sometimes I kick it with my toe, and I’ve been having trouble figuring out to kick it correctly,” Watson said.

She credited Nelson with an assist for her first goal, delivering it right to her foot for a tap-in into an empty net.

The second goal was more of a happy accident, according to Watson.

“The second one, I’m not really sure what happened,” Watson said. “I mean, I was going towards the goal, but there was a defender in front of me, and both of our feet hit at the same time, and I didn't know where it went, and I looked, and I had no idea where the ball went, and everybody started cheering, and I was like, ‘Oh, it went in.’”

Maconaquah’s Lacey Freeman scored 16 seconds into the second half, beating Rochester goalkeeper Kaillie Woods from a tough angle from the left of the cage.

Rochester made it 4-1 on a Howdeshell 20-yarder off an Eaton assist and completed the scoring when Bradley was first to a loose ball and finished with 13:21 left.

Rochester was playing for the first time since a 4-0 loss to Class 1A, No. 5 Argos three days earlier.

Coach Chantal Rensberger switched the formation during the week from a 3-3-4 to a 3-5-2.

Amy Williams spent much of the game running the left flank while Nelson sped down the right flank. Bradley, who was primarily a defensive player her first two years, now plays up farther, and Eaton also distributes from the middle.

Rensberger said the team “needs to find feet more” but said the passing was much better than against Argos.

“We wanted to put our two fastest girls up front and let them just run and then bring Macie and Amy back a little bit so they have a little bit more depth back about a quarter way through the opposite side of the field,” Rensberger explained. “To just give them more room to actually breathe. Sometimes I feel like it’s not enough distance for them to get momentum to the goal. And then I brought Kendyll Bradley up and Lilli to run central more offensively and defensively. I trust those two girls centrally, so while offensively, I gave them the reins to come back. So a lot of the really great passing came from the center because they’re very skilled players. When they can get the ball up and over, it’s effective because we’re past.”

Rensberger also said the team worked on “defensive shifts” in preparation for the game. Kami Burkett’s role changed, moving the side to play a more central role and sweeping the back behind the midfielders.

“I feel just by one practice of having that, the girls really like that formation,” Rensberger added. “Because it’s something new. So it made our passing much more effective because people were actually in their positions.”

It led to an enjoyable day on the pitch for players like Watson, who also plays basketball in the winter and softball in the spring.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had this much fun playing a sport if I’m being honest,” Watson said. “It’s just the environment. Chantal is one of the sweetest coaches I’ve ever had. We don’t have negativity. We don’t have fights. We just go out here to play and have fun.”

Postponed for 10 minutes

Rensberger said she was told the game was postponed at 1:50 p.m. due to a lack of officials. She even posted on social media that the game was off.

Ten minutes later, she retracted the post. The game was back on.

It was played with two officials both running in the center of the field.

The game was postponed from an earlier date to a COVID-related pause that affected Maconaquah.

“I kind of have a little bit of an insight with my dad (Rensberger’s father Mark Gordon is both a soccer official and an assignor of officials), and this was a very heavily scheduled day for referees,'' Rensberger said. “I don’t feel like it’s going to be all the time, but I think the ones that are getting rescheduled are ones we’re going to have issues with.”


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