Saturday 9/24 marked the opening of Midwest Conference play for Lawrence’s soccer programs. Unfortunately for the Vikes, it didn’t go according to plan.
The game was a very tense affair, with little in the way of scoring opportunities. The center of the field was the battle ground of the day, as the ball was pinged back and forth between opposing center backs and central midfielders. One team would clear their lines, only for the opposite defensive midfielder to head the ball right back into the danger zone. From the off, it was very clear these were two of the best teams in the conference, both gunning for the all-important winning start in conference play.
Emma Vasconez was Lawrence’s most important player on the day, winning the battle in midfield almost by herself on the day. Though that is meant as no insult to Sophia Morin, who also put up big defensive numbers. Having been present at the game myself, I can safely say that if defensive statistics were kept, each would have won the ball from an opponent double digit times, which is unheard of in high level soccer matches. They were backed up by the infallible center back duo of Cait Rodko and Charlotte Linebarger, who dominated the game from the air. Rodko in particular was brilliant, never once getting beaten one-on-one and keeping Foresters’ striker Anna Gracia quiet almost all day long.
In the end, the game came down to missed chances. After a tense first half in which neither team had a clear sight of goal, the game came to life in the second period when Lawrence was awarded a penalty with around 30 minutes to play. Striker Cambrie Rickard put it wide, and then had to watch as Lake Forest went close themselves less than a minute later as a counterattack off the ensuing goal kick led to a break away and the Foresters hitting the post. The game was largely quiet from that point on, until Gracia managed to get away from the Lawrence defense on an Alyssa Xanos free kick, turning up unmarked at the back post to tuck home and put the visitors up 1-0. Lawrence gave everything they had in the last eight minutes, throwing bodies forward in the attack as they hunted for one last quality chance. In the end, they were unsuccessful. Soccer can be a cruel game sometimes, as it was on Saturday as the better team came up just short.
The Vikings are back in action at home on Saturday 10/1 at 1:30 pm against Illinois College in their second conference match of the season.