Whenever Amherst Comets senior Lexy Alston had the ball in a girls soccer match last Wednesday, the North Olmsted Eagles defense was sure to follow.
And the Eagles’ game plan was sound. Alston is one of the most dangerous players in the Southwestern Conference, and the Comets entered the game having outscored opponents 18-2 on the young season thanks in large part to her ability to create as well as score. If her feet touched the ball, one or more defenders were immediately in front of her.
But the Eagles, who start underclassmen at all but three spots and haven’t yet found chemistry in the attacking third of the field, could not afford many let-ups defensively. With a more veteran ensemble and multiple scoring threats, that inexperience helped the Comets as they won 5-0. Four different players scored as they outshot the Eagles on goal 12-0.
“They came out with the strategy to try and mark me a little heavier, so we did a good thing and tried to open up more people in space,” said Alston, whose booming shot from nearly 35 yards in the 64th minute pushed the lead to 4-0. “I would bring myself back a little bit and that would open up a lot of opportunities for other girls and I think that worked really well for the team since we got five goals.”
Sophomore Juliet Seng scored twice for Amherst (27th, 58th), which also got goals from Olivia Lopez (13th) and Elley Vorhees (72nd) as the team improved to 4-0 (2-0 SWC). The Comets spent much of the game in Eagle (0-5, 0-3) territory, outshooting them 27-3 overall.
For a team in search of its first-ever SWC championship, the depth of offensive options has been a welcome sight. The Comets have gotten off to a hot start despite losing two starters to season-ending injuries and having a third starter, senior midfielder Cameron Dumais, just returning from an injury suffered in July.
“Of our 16 varsity players, we’ve really only had 13 (available),” Comets coach Gary Gonzalez said. “We only had two subs off the bench (tonight), so it was bigger minutes for some of these kids. I’m very happy for the team (despite the injuries). The attack has been everything we thought it was going to be, and the defense is piecing it together even though we have midfielders switching to defenders and learning new positions. Overall, I’m proud of them.”
Despite falling behind for good midway through the first half when Lopez beat a single defender and tapped a shot past sophomore goalie Nikki Hamdan, the Eagles showed grit in trying to shut down the Comets’ attack. Hamdan finished with seven saves and the defense in front of her held its own for much of the game, surrendering goals on some tough shots, mostly in the final 18 minutes.
Including Alston’s long shot, Vorhees’ goal came from 25 yards away. Before those, Seng’s second goal came when she wrestLed possession away from Hamden by the left goal post then she drifted out to grab a loose ball, sending a shot into a wide-open net.
The young Eagles, who are a part of a growing program that has almost doubled in size from 22 girls in 2017 to 40 this year, likely have their best soccer still ahead of them. Their schedule for this week includes road trips to Lakewood tonight (7 p.m.) and Medina Highland Saturday (1 p.m.).
“Amherst’s athletic all over the field, and obviously Lexy is a handful,” Eagles coach Bob Armentrout said. “They moved her all around the field, so we’re trying to combat that and deal with her, defensively. It was really their athleticism and game experience (that carried them). We’re young. Our program’s had a lot of growth in the last couple years, and we have a lot of younger kids getting (varsity) minutes. Tonight they scrapped and fought, and that’s all you can ask for.”
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