The soccer season is only five matches old, but Greenwood freshman Kayla Rance already has notched a hat trick.
Those familiar with soccer and hockey know that’s three (or more) goals in a single outing.
And she’s done it not once but four times, most recently during Saturday’s 6-2 win against Southport. She scored five of the Woodmen’s goals and now has 15 for the season.
The output been a surprise, Rance said.
“I didn’t think I would get that many,” she said with a half smile.
The numbers have hardly been a shock considering the way she tallied the first of her three goals in the Woodmen’s 4-0 victory against Beech Grove on Thursday.
Taking a pass from behind the stripe at midfield, Rance sped down the center of Greenwood’s Astroturf field, splitting defenders like a clever punt returner in football while maintaining her dribble.
Without breaking stride, Rance teed up her shot from about 20 feet away from the goal, swung back her right leg and booted the ball hard past the Hornets’ goalkeeper to put the Woodmen on the board.
She scored her second goal almost effortlessly on a penalty kick and added the third about 10 minutes into the second half, getting a great look at the net.
After scoring for the third time, Rance departed the game after being tripped up hard at midfield. She stayed out just to be on the safe side.
The only opponent that’s kept her under wraps is county and Mid-State Conference rival Whiteland, which held the freshman to one goal and edged the Woodmen 3-2 on Wednesday. Rance almost had a chance to tie the game with about 10 seconds left, but three Warrior defenders bottled her up.
Her other hat-trick performances came in Greenwood’s 4-2 victory against Martinsville on Aug. 20 and a 6-0 rout of Edgewood on Aug. 23.
Rance, the daughter of Denis and Deborah Rance, is the sister of former boys soccer standout Maxx Rance, who’s been instrumental in helping his sister make her mark — and quickly — at Greenwood.
“(Maxx) helped me push myself to be as good as I can be,” Rance said. “He’s helped me with my shooting and where I need to be on the field.”
Rance is used to being on a soccer field. Though she’s only in her first year in high school, she’s a veteran of the sport. She started, as she put it, “around 5 or 6” and began competing in travel soccer at 7.
She’s been comfortable and confident playing such a physical game. Not even the possibility of superstition would hinder her, considering she ended up choosing to wear No. 13.
“I just kind of picked it,” she said. “I just thought it was pretty cool.”
Rance said travel soccer and interscholastic soccer differ in many ways but have one obvious similarity.
“I just love the team aspect, getting to know everyone and helping improve each other,” she said.
Those sentiments were echoed by Greenwood’s third-year coach, Anne Toliver-Pratt, who noted she knew Rance a little bit before and since her brother graduated two years ago.
“Kayla’s been very positive, hardworking and determined. “She’s good at doing what we ask of her and helps the other girls out.”
The season is still young, but it’s apparent Toliver-Pratt, Rance and the rest of the Woodmen believe it’s going their way now.
Heading into Saturday’s match at Southport, Greenwood’s three victories equaled the number of wins totaled in its previous two campaigns.
While Rance has been punching the net with soccer balls, the Woodmen have been energized by the leadership of their captains — seniors Chloe Cole and Kathryn Roberts and junior Cierra Frazier, who had never played soccer for keeps prior to her freshman year.
Toliver-Pratt said that throughout her tenure several players have had to learn to play the game competitively during their high school careers.
Improvement always remains the watchword for the team seeking to “pass the ball with a purpose,” as stressed by its coach.
“We’ve had a lot of girls who didn’t play before,” Toliver-Pratt said. “There’s been an attitude of being accepting and helping them. They’ve (the older players) started building that group up. They want to be better.”
Rance said, “We’re thinking, hey, we can actually win. It helps us keep our heads up and play hard.”
Meanwhile, the team has had another catalyst in goalkeeper Madelyn Moan, who’s allowed just five goals in four outings thus far.
The freshman demonstrated her skill early in the second period when speedy Beech Grove forward Cassidy Bruner approached with a breakaway shot opportunity, threatening to cut the Woodmen’s 2-0 lead in half.
Moan smothered the senior Hornet’s shot well in front of the net.
It was a play that confirmed Greenwood was on its way to a hat trick in terms of wins.