Lady Panthers start ’22 with ‘W’ over Southridge
By Brandon Miniard, Sports Writer, [email protected]
When they took the field Monday night, the Corydon Central girls’ soccer players looked fairly different compared to a year ago.
After posting their best record in years, the Lady Panthers begin the 2022 season with a number of spots to fill, including a void left by former offensive star Ava Weber, who passed on her senior year to focus on basketball. Another change comes on the sideline, with former assistant coach Pat Clarke stepping up to succeed the now-retired Derek Korte.
Under a new system, the Lady Panthers were originally set to open the season in Hanover against Southwestern on Saturday, only for the contest to be postponed due to COVID-19 complications. Instead, the Lady Panthers opened the season by welcoming Southridge, a team they shut out 3-0 a year ago. Eighty minutes of physicality amid perfect weather later, the hosts sent their guests back to Huntingburg empty-handed with a 4-2 victory to give Clarke his first victory as skipper.
“It feels great; I was nervous for the girls, especially some that I saw back in junior high and was excited to see what they would do when they came to the high school level,” Clarke said. “We got some real strong returners this year, and I’m really pleased with what I saw today.
“Ava Weber’s a big weapon to lose with just her leg and her aggressiveness,” he said. “We definitely miss her this year, so we had to do some things differently with the way we play the game, but the girls are adjusting.”
Senior Nathalie Laaz got the scoring started for either side in the 13th minute, breaking away from the pack before firing a line drive by Lady Raiders’ goalkeeper Annika Beard. Sophomore Aniston Applegate followed the early assault five minutes later, fending off a Lady Raiders’ defender on her right side before squeaking a slow roller past Beard for an early 2-0 edge.
The Lady Raiders’ refused to be shut out in the first half as forward Maritza Romero fired a rocket from a quarter-length of the field past senior goalkeeper Maddison Franks with over a minute and a half remaining, making for a 2-1 Lady Panthers’ advantage heading into the break.
The Lady Panthers started the second half strong as senior Amirah Curry took advantage of a free kick following a penalty in the 45th minute, nailing a shot that was just too high for Beard. The goal gave the Lady Panthers a 3-1 edge.
That number would last for the majority of the half as both sides, the Lady Panthers especially, struggled to add to those numbers despite a number of strong shots. The match’s final three minutes saw the last instance of offense for both sides, starting when Romero took the ball down field before shooting the ball to the right of Franks to cut the deficit to 3-2.
Not comfortable with a one-point lead, Applegate struck again courtesy of a perfect feed from freshman Olivia Schreck, the ball sneaking past Beard for the Lady Panthers’ fourth and final goal of the contest, securing the 4-2 victory.
“It was very thriving and exciting because Olivia’s only a freshman, and she already plays so well with her teammates,” Applegate said. “I’m very glad that I got to get her an assist.”
“I’m pleased with the direction that we’re heading, especially after today. First game of the season, we’re running a new system and we got some younger players starting this year, including some that this is their first high school game all together,” Clarke said. “We’re just getting our feet underneath us, getting some of those pre-game jitters, and I could tell they were excited in warmups. That will wear out, but, when you need them to pull through, they buckle down and dig deep and that got the job done.”
The Lady Panthers will conclude the current week tomorrow (Thursday) with their first big test of the season as they travel to confront rival Scottsburg to open Mid-Southern Conference play. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m.