When the Greenwood girls soccer team traveled to Whiteland last month for a county rivalry match, junior midfielder Kayla Rance sensed that her team might have been a bit on edge heading in.
Rance decided the best way to take the edge off was to get the Woodmen an early lead — and a little more than two minutes into the match, she’d given it to them, carrying into the box on the left side and punching the ball into the nylon from about 15 yards away.
Midway through the first half, Rance scored again on a penalty kick, and Greenwood was on its way to a 3-1 victory.
In a late-season match with Decatur Central last year, Rance had a response every time the Hawks got within reach, scoring four times in a 5-3 Woodmen win.
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“Every time they scored,” Greenwood coach Joe Mushrush recalled, “It was kind of like, ‘Okay, Kayla’s going to do something here.'”
Plenty of players have scoring ability, but not all of them have that sense of the moment — knowing when to sit back and facilitate for teammates and when to take matters onto your own feet and seize control of the action.
Over time, Rance said, she’s gradually figured it out.
“I think from freshman year to now, I’ve definitely gotten better at that,” she stated. “If it’s a competitive game and we’re losing or something, I might take a ball that sometimes I would pass.”
Rance has done plenty of both for the Woodmen, who are 6-0 heading into Tuesday’s home match against Indianapolis Herron. Rance has a team-high 12 goals, and her six assists are tied with senior Taylor Neely for the team lead.
Neely has scored 11 goals herself, including four in the team’s 12-0 win against Beech Grove last month.
“They’ve worked so well together,” Mushrush said of Rance and Neely. “And they’ve developed a great midfield combination.”
The pair has carried the Woodmen to a perfect start.
Rance has been putting up big numbers throughout her high school career, tallying 27 goals as a freshman and 35 as a sophomore. As her production has risen, she has also managed to create more chances for her teammates — Rance dished out six assists as a rookie, then upped that total to 13 last fall.
“She’s smart in the sense that she doesn’t try to take everything over and do everything herself,” Mushrush said. “She plays so well with the other midfielders. She plays great drop passes to (junior defender) Ashley Allen and works well with our wings and our forwards.”
Rance attributes her savvy to her many years playing club soccer; she now stars for Hoosier FC in Noblesville when she’s not playing for Greenwood.
In a couple of years, she’s hopeful to be playing collegiate soccer, preferably at the Division I level. She has plans to study nursing, following in the footsteps of a handful of family members.
“It just kind of interests me,” Rance said. “I think it’d be cool to try it.”
For now, she’s busy trying to help the Woodmen achieve their primary goals — a Mid-State Conference championship and a sectional title. Last year, Greenwood had a 1-0 halftime lead over Center Grove in the final match before running out of steam.
If the Woodmen are to turn the tables this postseason, they’ll need a big performance out of Rance — who has become more and more accustomed to delivering.
“She just attacks,” Mushrush said, “and she doesn’t stop attacking, and that’s something you need — you need a player like that.
“We go, usually, as she goes.”
Kayla Rance’s game-by-game scoring for Greenwood this season: