The road has been a bumpy one for the Greenwood girls soccer team in 2017, with many of those bumps sidelining key players for some length of time.
On Thursday, the Woodmen were about as close to full strength as they’ve been in some time, and the fortified lineup coasted to a comfortable 5-0 victory against Greenwood Christian.
Senior forward Kayla Rance paced Greenwood (5-5) with three goals and an assist, all before halftime. Junior Veda Craig, making her return to the lineup after missing time with a concussion, put home the other two goals.
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“Obviously Kayla was on her game, and Veda coming back was a big boost for us too,” Greenwood coach Joe Mushrush said. “And our defense played well. It’s always good to go out and execute a game plan and get exactly what you want from a game.”
Rance broke the seal just 3:19 into the match, lobbing a 20-yard shot over the head of Greenwood Christian goaltender Amelia Walters. She added two more goals about 20 seconds apart midway through the half, then found Craig right in front of the net in the 27th minute.
Craig added another tally early in the second half, and the Woodmen substituted liberally the rest of the way.
Being able to win handily on consecutive nights — Greenwood beat Decatur Central 5-1 on Wednesday — was a welcome experience after a rough first half of the season that saw starting midfielder Sydney Neely knocked out for the year with an ACL tear and three other key players — Craig, Brittney Johnson and goalie Maddy Moan — sidelined for several matches.
“That was definitely a challenge for us to come together and people having to step up in different positions,” Rance said of her team’s injury-riddled start. “It was a bigger responsibility (for me) to keep the team positive, especially in the harder games without having those key players.”
Walters stopped 18 shots for the Cougars (2-8), keeping the score a bit more reasonable despite Greenwood finishing with a 23-1 edge in shots on goal.
Mushrush is hopeful that his building confidence and momentum heading into the stretch run.
“We went through the season and did so well all year last year, and then we were out in the first round of sectionals,” he said. “So we’re kind of hoping that the adversity now prepares us for the tough sectional that we’re in this year.”